Legislators back trimmed elected official raises

Legislators back trimmed elected official raises
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho lawmakers have approved a plan to scale back pay raises for the state's top elected officials.

Thursday's votes — 44-25 in the House and 35-0 in the Senate — mean the governor and other top officials likely will see their salaries increase 1.5 percent next year — and each year after that.

That's less than the 2.5 percent raises the bill's sponsors originally asked for. But it's still more than what state employees will be getting in years to come: Lawmakers already have decided those workers will get a total of 2 percent for merit-based raises next year.

Half of that is permanent, and half would be a one-time bonus. State employee pay in Idaho lags far below market rates.

That disparity put off some lawmakers, who said it was unfair to guarantee raises for Idaho's politicians when other workers don't get the same promise.

The measure now advances to Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's desk, where it is unlikely to face any hurdles in becoming law.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said he thinks elected officials work hard to serve the state, but he couldn't support the bill in a year when other employees were overlooked.

"I think they deserve raises — just like the rest of the state workers," he said. "Very reluctantly, I'm going to vote no."

Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said if any salary increases should be trimmed to offset a budget pinch, it should be those of Idaho's highest officials.

"It's hard to advance a bill like this in the face of what the average Idahoan is facing," he said.

The 1.5 percent increase would raise the governor's salary from $119,000 to $120,785 on Jan. 1 of next year. That's $1,190 less than what a 2.5 percent raise would have paid out. Other officials who will get ongoing raises include the secretary of state, the lieutenant governor, the state treasurer and the superintendent of public instruction.

The attorney general's pay would jump from $107,100 to $124,000 next year to match what Idaho's district judges bring home. That salary would remain the same for the next four years.

Lawmakers can vote to make changes to what elected officials make only every four years, to correspond with elections. The salary changes are for the seats, not the specific people who fill them.

Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, disputed contentions that the bill was unfair to state workers, noting that those employees will get a 2 percent raise in 2015 — higher than what officials stand to receive.

"I think this is a fair compromise, and I think it's the right thing to do," Moyle said.