Balking at a Senate proposal to raise salaries for the governor and other statewide elected officials, a House panel passed its own version Wednesday.
The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, would give seven state officials 3 percent annual salary increases between 1999 and 2002.
Though the measure would affect offices such as attorney general and secretary of state, the most debate was ignited over the governor’s $85,000 salary.
The House State Affairs Committee killed a Senate bill that would have boosted the governor’s pay from $85,000 to $103,000 a year.
Arguing that $103,000 is too much cash for the state’s top official, lawmakers voted for a plan to raise the governor’s salary to almost $96,000 during the next four years.
“If you want to be governor of the state, you’ll work for $85,000 a year instead of digging ditches for six bucks an hour,” House Minority Leader Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint, said.
Those who favored the higher salaries said qualified people won’t take huge pay cuts to run for Idaho’s top offices.
“If you want to draw quality people to fill these positions, their salary has to be higher than midmanagement,” said Rep. Bill Deal, R-Nampa.
But Stoicheff argued the Legislature has quality members even though they’re paid only $12,000 a year.
“There’s not much quality there,” he said about his salary. “This is a bunch of junk about qualified people.”
Backers of the Senate bill, which passed the Senate 25-7 last week, said 142 state employees make more money than Gov. Phil Batt does.
The Boise State University president is the highest-paid state employee at $136,000 a year.
“I know eyebrows go up on this, but we’re not talking about the person ascending to this position - we’re talking about the office itself,” said Allyn Dingel, a Boise lawyer who presented the Senate bill.
The legislation would not affect Batt’s salary. The governor is completing the last year of his term.
Besides cash, the state provides the governor with a house and car.
But Rep. Debbie Field, R-Boise, argued it’s still a struggle. She told committee members that a card table, two folding chairs and a bed were the only furniture in Batt’s house when he first moved to Boise.
Rep. Paul Kjellander, R-Boise, tried to meld the House and Senate bills together, but his compromise attempt failed.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: House bill The House bill would cost the state about $140,000 over four years and would result in the following salary increases: Governor: from $85,000 to $95,668 per year. Lieutenant governor: from $22,500 to $25,323. Attorney general: from $75,000 to $84,413. Secretary of state, controller, treasurer and Idaho schools superintendent: from $67,500 to $75,971. The bill goes to the full House for a vote. If passed, the measure would head to the Senate for a vote. Under law, if the bill dies, state elected officials could not get a pay raise until 2002.