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Merit-based salary increase bill awaits governor's pen

The drought soon will be over… the one that left Idaho state employees without a salary increase for more than two years.

ITD employees will be among the approximately 24,000 state of Idaho workers celebrating a permanent 2 percent merit-based increase, effective June 6. The Idaho Legislature approved the change in employee compensation (CEC) package Monday. It now awaits the governor’s signature.

The proposal passed the House Feb. 25 on a 59-6-5 vote and cleared the senate Monday on a unanimous vote of 35-0-0.

The joint resolution provides agencies guidance on the use of one-time and ongoing salary savings to address salary increases.

“This concurrent resolution states that the policy of the state of Idaho is to provide a total compensation system for state employees, which includes paying competitive job market average salaries and rewarding performance with a merit-based compensation philosophy,” according to the bill’s statement of purpose.

The bill reads, in part, “The Legislature recognizes that no specific funding for salary increases for state agencies and institutions has been provided for the last two fiscal years. As such, state agency directors and institution executives are encouraged to allocate agency salary savings to provide for employee salary needs before other operational budget priorities are considered.”

Early in this session Gov. Dirk Kempthorne emphasized the need to increase the salaries of state workers. The state budget still hasn’t fully recovered from several years of lower-than-expected revenue. But progress is sufficient that no holdbacks were ordered this year, and Gov. Kempthorne included the CEC increase in his budget proposal.

State employees also might benefit from another one-time increase, designed to offset the rising cost of health insurance coverage, if general fund revenues exceed the fiscal year 2004 revenue projection by at least $5,001,000. In that event, “the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee shall design a surplus eliminator appropriation to provide this temporary salary increase, should available funds in excess of the revenue projection become available,” according to the resolution.