March 13, 2014 in Idaho

Idaho lawmakers move forward with pay-raise bill

By The Spokesman-Review

BOISE – 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.

Legislators already 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 Wednesday morning on a unanimous vote and is headed to the full Senate.

Davis said the 2.5 percent raise – 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. “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: The attorney general’s salary was inadequate and would now be tied to state district judge salaries. The lieutenant governor’s pay 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.

Moyle noted that over the past 12 years, lawmakers have voted to increase state worker pay an average of 1.7 percent a year, while top elected officials’ pay averaged a 1.9 percent increase. “I think the Legislature has done a good job of averaging it out and trying to treat everyone fairly,” he said.

Salaries for Idaho’s top elected officials are set by statute, and they’re set before the officials are elected. Every statewide office in Idaho is on the ballot this year for a four-year term; 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.

Gov. Butch Otter currently makes $119,000 a year, not counting a $4,000-per-month housing allowance. Under the bill, 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 $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.

According to the Council of State Governments, Idaho’s lieutenant governor salary ranked second-lowest in the nation last year. Washington’s lieutenant governor made $93,348.

Idaho’s secretary of state, controller, treasurer and schools superintendent all make $101,150 now. Under the bill, they’d get $103,679 next year, and 85 percent of the governor’s salary, or $111,651, 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. Last year, Idaho’s salary for its attorney general was the 13th-lowest in the nation; Washington’s attorney general was paid $151,718.

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