Report says state workers should get pay raise, benefit cuts
The state of Idaho is paying its employees less than comparable private sector jobs but providing better medical benefits, according to a yearly state report. The report calls for a long-range approach to staying competitive, including merit-based pay raises that could cost millions of dollars a year, but those ideas may be shelved during the current budget crunch.
The Idaho Department of Administration sends Gov. Butch Otter the Change in Employee Compensation and Benefits (CEC) report every December, which outlines state workers' pay and potential changes. This year's report says that economic conditions would be a factor in any changes to workers' pay.
The report recommends a 3 percent increase in state employee pay, distributed as merit-based raises. Such a plan would cost $15.9 million from Idaho's general fund and $18.3 million in dedicated and federal funds.
Otter's spokesman, Jon Hanian, wouldn't comment on the report and said the governor would offer his recommendations when he presents his budget next month. When the current budget was set, the governor zeroed out a 3 percent CEC recommended salary increase, saying he'd improve compensation when the economy improves.
Cathy Holland-Smith, the Legislature's budget analyst, said during a presentation to the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho that she expects similar action next year, with state workers not getting a pay raise.
The report said that Gov. Otter remains supportive of aligning the state's pay package for workers more closely with the private sector. While salaries are currently 15.9 percent behind market rates, medical benefits are higher than what private companies provide employees. Idaho pays for approximately 75 percent of medical charges while private employers pay for 70 percent of covered charges. The CEC report recommends that the state move closer to the lower level of benefits.
Idaho shed 430 classified state employees from October 2009 to October 2010, according to the report. The average hourly wage for state workers was $19.08.