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Idaho state employees face 3 percent pay cut

BOISE - Legislative budget writers have endorsed a 3 percent across-the-board pay cut for all Idaho state employees next year, to help cope with the state’s budget crunch.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted 14-5 to impose the 3 percent pay cut on all state employees next year, as part of an overall 5 percent cut in personnel funding statewide. The joint committee had been debating between requiring 2 percent or 3 percent as the required cut; Gov. Butch Otter favored no across-the-board cut, leaving all decisions on how to meet the 5 percent reduction up to state agency heads.

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, was among those opposing the 3 percent figure. “Why would we intentionally go to a 3 percent salary reduction when we don’t know for sure that we have to go that deep?” he asked. “We are still not competitive in terms of how we compensate our employees.”

Backers of the move said they want fairness and uniformity in how cuts are handled among state agencies. “What we really want to do is to keep as many jobs as we can,” said Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley.

The requirement for the one-year pay cut, effective for fiscal year 2010, will now be written into every budget bill the joint committee passes.

Also opposing the 3 percent cut were Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, and Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow. North Idaho lawmakers endorsing the cut were Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint; and Reps. George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls.

The cut in pay would apply to all state employees, salaried or hourly, and would include top positions such as tax commissioners and public utilities commissioners. Only elected officials and judges whose salaries are set by law wouldn’t be affected.

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