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Report: Idaho state employee pay has 'stabilized' at 12% below market

Idaho state law requires state employee compensation to be “competitive with relevant labor market averages.”
Credit: KTVB file
The Idaho flag hangs in the Statehouse.

BOISE, Idaho — According to an annual state-commissioned report required by law, Idaho state employee compensation “appears to have stabilized at 12% below market,” meaning “the state is no longer losing ground.”

State employee pay — even when relatively generous benefits are counted in — has long lagged below market rates, when compared with other states and governments as well as similar jobs in the private sector.

For each of the past five years, the state Legislature and governor have approved merit-based pay increases for state employees averaging around 3%. For next year, the report recommends merit raises of at least 2%, given the concerns Gov. Brad Little’s administration has expressed about future slowing of state tax revenues.

The 152-page report, put together by the state Division of Human Resources with data from several professional consulting firms, also recommends continuing state employee benefits at the same level that they’re provided now.

“The state’s employee benefit package continues to be a key component of the state’s total compensation package for employees,” the report concludes.

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A joint legislative committee called the Change in Employee Compensation Committee, or CEC Committee, will hold the first of three meetings at 10 a.m. Friday at the state Capitol to review the report and the state’s options.

The panel is inviting written public testimony, which it will review at its following meeting on Jan. 9, along with comments from state agency directors and a presentation on the governor’s recommendation for state employee compensation. The panel is scheduled to vote on its recommendations on Jan. 16.

“Clearly there’s some concern on the part of this administration that we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves on spending … particularly if the economy is slowing,” said Rep. Neil Anderson, R-Blackfoot, co-chair of the CEC Committee.

He said he thought the CEC report was “in line with that.”

In recent years, the joint committee has taken live testimony from state employees, with many sharing concerns about getting by on their state wages.

“We’re still happy to hear what people have to say, but we’ll do that in written form,” Anderson said. He said that decision was made because the Legislature faces many hours of review on administrative rules during this year’s session.

Idaho state law requires state employee compensation to be “competitive with relevant labor market averages.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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