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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Legislature’s CEC committee to examine state pay, for first time since 2008

Pay for Idaho state employees has now slipped to 19 percent below market rates, according to the latest state report, a gap that’s been growing for the past decade. Compared to private-sector wages, Idaho state workers are now 29 percent behind; compared to surrounding states, they’re 10 percent below. Not coincidentally, it’s been six years since the Idaho Legislature last convened its joint committee on state employee compensation – which, before that, had met annually to examine the issue and hear from state workers. That’s about to change, with a joint committee scheduled to hold three days of hearings next week; you can read my full story here at

In three of the last five years, lawmakers have set zero raises for Idaho state employees; the year before last saw a 2 percent boost, while fiscal year 2010 saw a 5 percent cut. Yet state law requires lawmakers to address employee compensation every year and keep it competitive, even when state revenues lag.

The law requires Idaho state worker compensation, including salary and benefits, to be “competitive with relevant labor market averages,” and directs that, “In order to provide this funding commitment in difficult fiscal conditions, it may be necessary to increase revenues, or to prioritize and eliminate certain functions or programs in state government, or to reduce the overall number of state employees in a given year.”

“Otherwise, you’re going to get further and further behind market, and that’s what’s happened currently,” said Idaho Legislative Services Director Jeff Youtz. “There are some statutory requirements that I don’t think we’ve been following the last several years.”

The law also requires the state Division of Human Resources to conduct salary surveys each year and present the results to the governor and Legislature. This year’s report concludes that the state’s benefits package, including “strong” retirement and health coverage benefits, “does not offset the below-market wages, and therefore results in a total compensation program below the market average in both the private and public sectors.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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