Panel recommends raises for state employees

After three days of deliberations, a legislative committee recommended Friday that state employees receive a 1 percent raise and a one-time, 1 percent bonus next year.

The 18-member Joint Change in Employee Compensation Committee unanimously backed the raises and bonuses for 2014-15 – going against Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation to leave wages unchanged.

The move is expected to cost the state general fund about $11 million.

During committee hearings this week, financial analysts and employees from the state Office of Performance Evaluation testified that 90 percent of the state’s 24,631 employees are paid less than their policy pay rates.

A separate study published by the HayGroup found state employee pay lags the private sector by 29 percent.

DeanCameron77
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert

Friday’s action does not affect teacher salaries – which also would remain flat under Otter’s budget.

However, after Friday’s meeting, Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee co-chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, reiterated his desire to help teachers if state employees receive raises and bonuses.

Follow Idaho EdNews on Facebook for the latest news »

“It’s always been our desire, although they are not of the same, we generally try and treat teacher pay the same as what we’ve treated public employees,” Cameron said. “So it certainly would be our desire to do something similar.”

Cameron said a “viable approach” would be to increase teacher base pay by 1 percent, and then make the equivalent of 1 percent available in leadership and merit bonuses, as Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has sought.

Budget analysts estimated each 1 percent increase for all public school teachers would cost about $9.3 million – or $18.6 million next year if a 1 percent raise and a 1 percent bonus is granted to teachers.

Cameron stressed that teacher pay decisions have yet to be made and he was only speaking for himself – not for his party or for JFAC as a whole.

John Goedde
Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene

One main concern, Cameron said, is pumping money into a salary grid that state officials are hoping to replace in a couple of years with a career ladder pay system. As of now, any plans for a career ladder are on hold until the next legislate session and a more careful study is undertaken.

After the meeting, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said legislators should consider teacher compensation now that the committee recommended raises for state employees.

“It’s certainly a basis on starting discussions on what might happen,” Goedde said. “The unknown piece is the health insurance piece because I don’t know that anybody has a good handle on what, statewide, the cost of health insurance increases at the local district levels are.”

Goedde, like Cameron, served on the CEC Committee.

Friday’s recommendation is just that – a recommendation – and JFAC is not bound to it.

Cameron said he and Goedde will meet with legislative leadership prior to the Jan. 23 public schools budget hearing to discuss the teacher pay issue in more detail.

Disclosure: Idaho Education News is based out of Boise State University and its reporters are state employees. Their salaries are paid by a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, not public tax dollars.