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Eye On Boise

Bill would ban retirement boosts for departing state employees

The House State Affairs Committee has voted unanimously to introduce legislation to ban purchases of additional retirement service for state employees to get them to retire early - a practice that resulted in $125,000 in such state expenditures in 2009, including $72,781 for a single employee. The state Division of Human Resources paid the amount to PERSI to buy extra service for its former director, Judie Wright, in exchange for her agreeing to retire eight months earlier than she'd planned; the head of the Division of Financial Management, Wayne Hammon, then took over as acting human resources director as well.

Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, noted that two other state employees, one at the state Tax Commission for $13,000, and one at the state Department of Education for $42,142, received similar PERSI service purchases as they left state employment. "This is an outrage to Idaho taxpayers and to Idaho state employees who did not receive that same privilege," Pasley-Stuart told the committee. "Many of you know state employees who were laid off who did not receive any consideration at all. Idaho already has a very strong severance pay policy, and that is we don't pay severance pay. ... However, the purchase of services has not been considered a part of the severance pay. This would prevent the purchase of services."

Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, co-sponsor of the bill, told the panel, "Mr. Chairman and fellow representatives, is this really the message that we want to deliver to the people of Idaho? Over $125,000 was paid out of the general fund in 2009. Here we are in 2010 poring over every budget, looking in all the nooks and crannies and under the rocks for money to run our state. These payouts ... would pay for three teachers, tax collectors, parks workers or other services that are much more important to the people of Idaho than paying money to three people so they can retire early."

The bill was introduced by State Affairs because it's a privileged committee, with the recommendation that it go to the Commerce & Human Resources Committee for a hearing.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.