July 17, 1997 in Idaho

State Worker Raise In Dispute Williams Says Cash There, Batt Says Hold Your Horses

By The Spokesman-Review

State Controller J.D. Williams announced Wednesday that Idaho has a budget surplus of $11.3 million, so it should be able to give state employees a midyear raise.

But Gov. Phil Batt pooh-poohed that idea, saying it would make more sense to give state workers bonuses or other boosts this year and follow the usual schedule for considering raises in the next fiscal year.

The Republican-dominated state Legislature, which makes the decision on employee raises when it sets the state budget, did not give raises this year because of concerns about money. But when the fiscal year ended, those concerns proved exaggerated.

“All the bills are paid,” Williams said, “and we’ve got cash in the bank.”

Williams, a Democrat, said he favored a raise of 3 percent to 4 percent for employees, coming late in the fiscal year once the Legislature could approve it.

“They need a signal that they’re important, that we want them,” Williams said.

Batt responded, “The state employees do deserve a raise, I agree with him totally on that.”

But, he said, “By the time the Legislature could act, February or March, the year is three-quarters through. We are, through administrative action, making attempts to give equivalent bonuses.”

Those tactics may not mean a raise for everyone this year, he said. But, he said, “I’m confident that we, by patch and scratch, can get raises for most of the employees.”

Batt also has said investment gains in the state’s pension fund might free up some money for additional pay this year.

The back-and-forth between Batt and Williams, who is the only Democrat among Idaho’s statewide elected officials, came as the two addressed a joint press conference on the year-end surplus in Batt’s office.

Batt remarked afterward that he had planned to take the day off but had to change his plans due to Williams’ announcement.

, DataTimes

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email