March 12, 2014 in Idaho

Idaho plans raises for top elected officials

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – After years of shorting low-level state workers’ pay, Idaho lawmakers are moving forward with plans for raises for top state elected officials next year, from 2.5 percent for the governor, secretary of state, treasurer and controller, to 16 percent for the Attorney General and 19.6 percent for the lieutenant governor.

Idaho legislators already have decided that state employees, whose pay lags far below market rates, will get a total of 2 percent for merit-based raises next year – half of that permanent, and half as a one-time bonus.

Now, a late-session bill co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle has emerged from committee to grant bigger boosts to top elected officials.

The bill quietly cleared the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning on a voice vote; it’s now headed to the full Senate.

Davis said the 2.5 percent figure – which most of the top elected officials would get not only next year but for each of the next four years – is what legislative leaders hope state employees get, too, over time. “This is our hope of what we’ll be able to do across the board the next several years,” he said.

The bigger boosts for the Attorney General and lieutenant governor were “policy” decisions, he said, reflecting that Idaho’s Attorney General’s salary was inadequate – it’ll now be tied to state district judge salaries – and the lieutenant governor’s reflected assumptions that the job was part-time, when it’s closer to full-time.

“We picked a policy number that we felt like was something we could have confidence going forward on, and still be able to attract as many qualified candidates as possible,” Davis said.

Salaries for Idaho’s top elected officials are set by statute, and they’re set before the officials are elected, so they can’t influence the process. Every statewide office in Idaho is on the ballot this year; the primary election is May 20.

The new bill, SB 1395, sets salaries for the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer and attorney general through the first Monday in 2019. Over that time period, the raises would cost state taxpayers $86,700.

Lawmakers held hearings on state employee pay this year for the first time since 2008; as of December, 56 percent of Idaho’s state employees made less than $40,000 a year, and 20 percent made less than $20,000. Though Gov. Butch Otter recommended zero raises for state workers next year, lawmakers have opted for the split 2 percent, writing it into every state agency budget they set.

Gov. Butch Otter currently makes $119,000 a year, not counting a $4,000 per month housing allowance. The governor’s salary would rise in 2015 to $121,975, a 2.5 percent raise. It’d then rise another 2.5 percent each year through 2019, when it would reach $131,354.

The lieutenant governor’s salary, now set at just $35,700, would rise to $42,691 next year, and rise to 35 percent of the governor’s salary, or $45,973.90, by 2019.

The secretary of state, controller, treasurer and schools superintendent all make $101,150 now; they’d get $103,679 next year, 2.5 percent more; and 85 percent of the governor’s salary, or $111,650.90, by 2019. That’s a 10 percent increase over that time period.

The Attorney General’s current salary is $107,100 a year. Under the bill, it would rise July 1 to $124,000, matching that of a district judge, and stay there for the next four years; that’s a 16 percent increase.


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