A report out of Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s office suggests that state workers should get a 3% salary increase and a reduction in health care benefits, though continuing state budget shortfalls may wipe out money going to raises.

The yearly Change in Employee Compensation report from Gov. Otter’s Division of Human Resources serves as a starting point for setting state workers’ salaries and benefits in the next budget.  The report says one of Otter’s priorities is to bring state workers’ pay more in line with the private sector by raising salaries and reducing health and retirement benefits.  The report’s suggested 3% salary increase would take an extra $20 million out of the next state budget and draw another $20 million from federal and dedicated funds.

Otter’s spokesman Jon Hanian said the report has as clear message.  “It says look, we need to pay state employees more,” Hanian said.  “Their salaries are not in many instances competitive with the private sector.  But it also acknowledges that we don’t have the ability to do that this year.”

The proposed salary increases may not survive the budget-making process.  ““I don’t think I’d have any problem with it if we had money,” said Jim Marriott, R-Blackfoot, a member of the Idaho House Commerce and Human Resources Committee.   “Where are we going to get the money?  That’ll be the problem… I don’t see how we can raise their salaries.”

The report says state employees’ salaries are well below similar jobs with private companies, but employee benefits, including retirement contributions and health, dental, life and disability insurance, are better funded.

Hanian said Otter is committed to the plan of raising worker salaries and reducing state payments for benefits, but it’s unlikely the pay raises will be coming to all state workers in the next year.  “That’s something that needs to be addressed long term,” Hanian said.  “The challenge of course is short-term right now… It’s very difficult to address it when you’re struggling to maintain the services you’ve got.”

Read the entire CEC Report at the Division of Human Resources website (pdf).

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