to give state workers a bonus
By Gregory Hahn
Legislators promised the across-the-board 1 percent bonus if state taxes came in over the budget, and there should be at least $11 million left at the end of the fiscal year.
For the average state worker who makes a little
more than $30,000 the windfall will be around $300.
"We are confident that the two-year budget plan I laid out for the Legislature in January is solidly on track," Kempthorne said.
Legislative analysts think there will be even more money, but state finance chief Brad Foltman cautioned that the numbers still need to be crunched. The fiscal year ended Wednesday (June 30), and it could be two weeks before the official count is in.
Lawmakers passed a law dedicating the bonuses if state revenues came in at $5 million more than was budgeted.
Kempthorne originally asked for a 2 percent salary boost distributed by merit, and lawmakers approved that, but they tagged on this additional boost as a gesture to state employees who had gone two years without raises.
Almost $8.8 million will end up going to employees.
"We're very excited to get the news," said Stacy Pearson, interim vice president for finance for Boise State University. "I think it's a very positive measure from the Legislature to state employees."
But what is she going to spend hers on?
"I don't know yet," Pearson said. "I haven't really thought about it."
The money will go to workers in lump-sum checks rather than be spread out in regular paychecks.
While individual bonuses and temporary merit pay increases are common in some state agencies, Foltman and others at the Statehouse said they didn't think there had ever been a statewide employee bonus triggered by an end-of-year surplus.
"This is a very happy day for the Legislature," Senate Commerce and Human Resources Chairman John Andreason said. "It isn't often that we get this opportunity."
However, the current economic news may be overshadowed next year when lawmakers face a $180 million hole that will be left when the sales tax goes back down to 5 percent.
They may have to extend the temporary sales tax hike,
find some other tax to increase or dive again into budget cuts.
Still, lawmakers are optimistic.
Who gets the money?
When one-time 1 percent bonus checks are written to every state employee, they will really go to every state employee whether the workers are paid through the general tax fund, special dedicated accounts or federal dollars. So the $5 million boost will actually land about $8.8 million in the hands of the 24,000 state workers.
Here's a look at how much money will go to some key agencies: