Despite the efforts of Rep. Jim Stoicheff, Idaho legislators still won’t have to go on record as voting themselves a pay hike.
The House voted 38-29 Thursday for a proposed constitutional amendment to change the method the state has used since 1976 to grant legislative pay increases. That was nine votes short of the required two-thirds majority, so the resolution died.
The Sandpoint Democrat wanted to ask voters to amend the Idaho Constitution so in the future, if lawmakers wanted higher pay, they had to go on record as voting for it.
The current process is just the opposite. A citizen commission recommends changes in legislative pay and expenses at the start of new legislative terms. If the Legislature does nothing, they remain in effect for at least the next two years.
This year’s increase was 3 percent - $360 on top of the legislative base pay of $12,000 per year or about $80,000 for all lawmakers.
Only by a positive vote of both chambers can lawmakers reject or lower the recommended changes, and that’s happened twice in the past. But in 1979, 1991 and again this year, the House voted to reject the increase while the Senate bottled up the resolution in committee, leaving the increase intact.
Stoicheff said that even if the House voted 66-0 to reject the raises, a few people in the Senate could block the action and allow the higher pay to remain.
He said that process allows lawmakers to “run around and hide” without having to make a recorded vote on their own raises.
“I think it’s dead wrong and sneaky,” he said. “It shows a lack of political courage when we hide behind the (deadline for action),” he said.
But before the vote, Jeff Alltus, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “I’ll fight hard to kill it. The people voted to take power over pay raises out of our hands, this is an attempt to take that back.”
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Associated Press Staff writer Joe Relk contributed to this report.