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Eye on Boise: Idaho ranks low in latest measure of gender pay gap

Sun., April 15, 2012

BOISE – Idaho ranks 43rd among the states for its gender pay gap, according to a new study from the American Association of University Women. It found that, based on 2010 federal data, the median pay for a full-time worker over age 16 in Idaho is $41,128 for men, but just $30,403 for women.

That means Idaho women earn 74 percent as much as Idaho men.

Neighboring Washington and Oregon ranked 27th and 28th, at 77 percent; while neighboring Utah and Montana fared even worse than Idaho in the study, with Montana ranking 46th at 73 percent and Utah 49th at 69 percent.

Interestingly, the Idaho Statesman recently highlighted a pay gap among top women in Gov. Butch Otter‘s administration, which Otter declined to discuss with the newspaper. The report found that Otter’s female Cabinet members earn 83 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

I reported on a similar finding in June 2010, when I found that of the 77 heads of Idaho state agencies under the Otter administration, 27 were women and 50 were men, and the average salary for the male agency heads was $109,658, while for the females it was $88,681. That means the top women were earning 81 percent as much as the top men. Otter said then that he would analyze the gap, saying, “If there’s inequities, then we ought to correct them where we can and as soon as we can.”

Of 342 bills, zero vetoes

In the end, there were no vetoes – not a one – as Otter last week allowed the last three bills passed by lawmakers this year to become law without his signature. That makes 342 bills passed and zero vetoes. The three:

SB 1321a, which altered a law about the Fish and Game winter feeding account to specify that it only can be spent for actual food, not for improvements to winter range for the same animals being fed, or for anything else. That controversial measure passed the Senate 25-8 and the House 40-30; it was sponsored by Sens. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, and Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton.

Otter pointed out some serious problems with the bill in his transmittal letter – including that by specifying the fund could only go for food, it couldn’t pay for the transportation costs to get the food out to the animals and other related costs, and therefore would put pressure on fishing and hunting license funds to fill in those costs. Nevertheless, he didn’t veto the bill.

HB 603, the new “97 percent protection” bill for Idaho school districts, partially restores a “99 percent protection” program eliminated under the “Students Come First” school reforms that protected districts from big, sudden drops in state funding if they lose students from one year to the next. Under the bill, districts that lose more than 3 percent of their students from one year to the next will be funded as if they’ve lost just 3 percent, but the money for the protection will come from school districts themselves, spreading the cost among all the state’s school districts.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, and the Idaho Association of School Administrators, received only one “no” vote in either house – from House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star. Otter said in his transmittal letter that he opposed such funding protection as double funding of students.

HB 611, the bill that was promoted as a move to ease the sale of abandoned horses by horse boarders. It adjusts a law that currently requires, after 60 days, that the animals be sold at a licensed livestock auction, to simply allow them to be sold at a public auction. Sponsored by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, the bill passed both houses unanimously amid sad tales of the fate of abandoned horses.

However, Otter noted that “the scope of this legislation goes beyond the intent ‘to provide for an alternative method of selling boarded horses when the owners do not pay.’ ” Otter, an avid horseman and rancher himself, wrote, “The legislation is not limited to horses but provides for public auction of ‘livestock of any kind.’ This broad language has raised concerns from owners of livestock auction yards.” Still, he didn’t veto the bill, saying instead that he looks forward to “working with all parties in resolving these concerns” during next year’s legislative session.

State taxes beat target again

March was the fourth straight month that state tax revenues came in ahead of forecast, running $3.9 million ahead, according to the latest figures. For the fiscal year to date, that puts the state $36.6 million ahead of projections. Among the strong spots: sales taxes and individual income taxes.

That brings state tax revenue growth to date for the fiscal year to 5.5 percent, well above the predicted 3.3 percent, and pushes Idaho tax revenue to $91.7 million more than last year at this time. The result, given HB 702, which passed this year and transfers any additional surpluses at the end of fiscal year 2012 into the Budget Stabilization Fund, will be larger deposits into that reserve account, up to nearly $60 million.

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