Two motions have been voted down, and the CEC Committee is now taking a break, though some members objected; it's 6:15 p.m. in Boise, well after the panel expected to be done.
An array of motions has been proposed. Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, proposed a complex motion to grant varying, merit-based increases of 2, 3, 4 or 5 percent, with the highest-paid classes of state employees getting the lowest percentage merit raises, while freezing funding for health insurance costs at this year’s level, forcing changes the current state employee health care plan, likely including cuts and higher costs for employees. After much discussion, his motion was voted down on a 6-11 vote.
Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, proposed the governor’s recommendation with one change: The proposed 3 percent merit-based raises would instead be across-the-board raises for those who make less than $40,000 a year s, but would remain merit-based for those earning more. That motion failed on a close 8-9 vote.
Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, proposed 3 percent merit raises plus a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment, for a total of 5 percent. Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, proposed 3 percent merit raises plus a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment for those with at least an "achieve" performance rating, for a total of 4 percent, plus renegotiating the state dental plan for a lower cost. Neither of those has yet been voted on.
Wood said, “I worry about the future of Idaho’s economy. I think 3 percent probably is all we ought to go. I get the fact that there’s motions for 4 percent and motions for 5 percent.” But he said he thought 3 percent was “as much as we oughta bite off, because that’s going to go into the base.”
Several committee members said they think state employee benefits are too generous. Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, said, “The benefit package is what I call the Rolls Royce – it’s not a Cadillac.”
Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said, “I don’t think our benefit package is too good, I think our salaries are too low.”
According to the state’s annual CEC study, which is required by law, Idaho state employees lag far behind the market in their pay, and even lag significantly, though by less, in total compensation including benefits.