No raises for state employees for two straight
years is prompting many to move to other jobs despite a difficult
employment market, Idaho Division of Human Resources Director
Ann Heilman warns.
Heilman is calling for some kind of pay incentive to stem
State workers´ average wages are now 14.6 percent below
market rates. And some groups, such as state nurses, are more
than 22 percent below the mark, she said.
To bring the wages up to the market rate would cost a staggering
$85 million next year, an amount no one in state government
expects Idaho´s tight state budget to yield. As a result,
state workers´ morale is down, and average turnover
is up to 13 percent 28 percent for nurses.
Even in this depressed job market where many people
are having trouble finding jobs, state employees are leaving
for other jobs, Heilman said. What concerns me
is when the economy turns and people have more opportunities,
what´s our turnover going to do?
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said he is aware of the situation.
I´m very sensitive to the fact that for an outstanding
group of state employees that have worked diligently through
these tough times, it´s been two years, Kempthorne
But each percentage hike for 24,000 state salaries costs
the state budget $5 million. And with Idaho´s temporary
sales tax increase scheduled to expire on July 1, 2005
leaving a $160 million hole in the state budget funding
Heilman is recommending a variety of options, led by a 10
percent pay boost for the state´s nurses. She also suggests
a five-year plan to bring state salaries up to the mark, which
would require funding for raises averaging 6.8 percent next
year, and each of the following four years.
If that cannot be done, she recommends as much of an overall
increase as possible. Failing that, Heilman seeks one-time
bonuses for outstanding employees to entice them to stay with
the state through the downturn.
I think the vast majority of state employees are hopeful
that this Legislature will give them a signal that they´re
valued. It´s the state employees that have been saving
The past two years have been difficult. Legislators allowed
agencies to grant raises if they could find savings in their
But only 13.1 percent 3,174 workers out of 24,239
got raises or bonuses. Agencies could only use savings
from their personnel budgets, not from other areas. With budget
cuts and layoffs, those were hard to come by.
One agency that recently found savings to offer raises was
the state Department of Correction. The money found was because
fewer inmates arrived at the state´s prisons than expected,
meaning fewer guards and support workers had to be hired on.
The move caused some legislators to wonder whether the decision
to shift the dollars was made too soon in the fiscal year.
But at the same time, rising health insurance costs have
meant decreases in take-home pay for some state employees.
And 73 state employees were laid off in fiscal year 2003,
which ended July 1. Heilman said some had more than 20 years
of state service.