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Tuesday, May 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Idaho state employee pay still lags, despite this year’s raises

Idaho state employee pay remains about 20 percent below market rates, according to a new state report, despite the 3 percent merit raises that lawmakers granted state workers this year.

“It was a lot of money,” said Rep. Neil Anderson, R-Blackfoot, who co-chaired a joint legislative committee last year that recommended the 3 percent raises, plus covering a $1,040 health insurance premium increase for each employee. “But I think other states have also ponied up, and so relatively speaking, I don’t know that we’ve made much ground.”

For next year, the state Division of Human Resources is recommending similar increases. Even counting benefits, state employee compensation still lags market levels, the division reported. But, the report said, “It is not reasonable to achieve this target in one year.”

Since last year, “Market salary movement … has been consistent with the state of Idaho’s salary increase, resulting in minimal change to the state’s overall salary market position,” the report found.

Merit-based raises of “at least 3 percent” would be “an appropriate step in an effort to keep pace with current market rate increases,” the report states.

“I think that our ability to make up ground with even bigger increases is going to meet some resistance,” Anderson said. “We’ll try to come up with something that is fair to the employees and something the state can afford.”

Currently, Idaho’s average annual salary for classified state employees, $44,033, is 24 percent behind the private sector market average and 14 percent below the public sector market average. Total compensation, including benefits, is estimated at 8 percent below private-sector rates and 11 percent below public-sector rates.

Even the state’s “policy” rates – the target pay rates listed for each step in the state’s salary structure – now fall 20 percent below the private sector average for similar positions and 7 percent below the public sector rates. Given the state’s strong benefits, the annual compensation report, which is required by state law, recommends trying to get that to 10 percent below the private sector and within 5 percent of the public sector, but it cautions such a move will take more than one year to achieve.

Idaho state law requires the state to provide competitive compensation levels for state workers. But it’s long lagged behind that goal, as reflected in the state’s annual employee compensation reports.

Lawmakers approved 3 percent merit increases both this year and last year; and 2 percent the year before that, half of it as a one-time bonus.

During the recession, Idaho state workers went three years without funding for raises, plus took a 5 percent cut in fiscal year 2010. That year, state worker salaries lagged 15 percent behind market rates.

Granting state employees raises averaging 3 percent next year would cost the state general fund $18.1 million.

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