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Idaho House panel rejects lawmakers’ raise

Thu., Jan. 22, 2009

‘Everybody has to hurt,’ representative says; move would save state $180,000

BOISE – An Idaho House committee on Wednesday unanimously rejected a proposed 5 percent pay raise for lawmakers, including themselves, this year.

The vote in the House State Affairs Committee came as lawmakers are struggling with deep budget cuts, including Medicaid cuts for the disabled that drew heavy opposition at hearings Wednesday.

The resolution to reject the legislative pay raise now heads to the full House. If passed, it’ll save the state about $180,000.

“We’re in tough times,” sponsor Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell said. “My belief is when you get in difficult times like this, you can’t ask some people to take all the hurt. Everybody has to hurt to get through the situation.”

Bolz’s proposal also rejects all the changes in mileage and per diem expenses that a citizens committee had recommended. There was no debate before the unanimous vote.

Bolz had also hoped to reject pay raises for statewide elected officials, but when he requested an opinion from the attorney general’s office on that in December, he found out he couldn’t – the constitution requires those pay amounts to be set before the officials take office remain unchanged during their terms. After the committee vote, legislative budget writers heard about the effects of budget cuts on Idahoans served by state Health and Welfare programs.

“Clearly, families are in a state of crisis,” Michelle Britton, a Health and Welfare administrator, told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. In programs like foster care, “If we have some growth in the caseload, we’re going to have a heck of a time paying the bills.”

People with disabilities, their family members and advocates crowded a Senate committee hearing on rules to implement Medicaid budget cuts that will reduce treatment hours. Clients with developmental disabilities will see a drop in maximum treatment hours from 30 hours a week to 22.

Despite extensive testimony against the rule, the committee voted to approve it with just one “no” vote, from Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise. A House committee will consider the same rules Monday, but rules stand unless the committees in both houses vote to reject them.

“It’s time to stop punishing individuals for having disabilities,” Rochelle Tierney, a mother of three from Nampa whose oldest son has autism, told the panel.

Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, asked her, “Are you suggesting that this program should not take its share of the Medicaid cuts?” When she answered yes, because of the effect on families, Darrington asked, “How would you suggest we deal with the people in the other programs that would have to take double their share of cuts?”

“I do not know,” the mother replied.

“Now you know our dilemma,” Darrington said.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com. For more news from Boise go to www.spokesman.com/boise.


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