- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The funding for a bill to increase elected officials’ pay squeaked through the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Friday.

The 10-9 vote allocated $22,200 in general-fund money to be spent on raises for Idaho’s top officials. The attorney general would see a 16 percent pay increase next year, and the lieutenant governor’s pay would jump 19.6 percent.

The measure includes an ongoing yearly raise of 2.5 percent for the governor, secretary of state, treasurer, controller and superintendent of schools.

That didn’t sit well with some lawmakers, who opposed officials getting bigger pay increases than state employees.

Dover Republican Rep. George Eskridge was among those who said it wasn’t unfair to the state’s other workers, who get no such guarantee going forward.

Lawmakers have already decided that state workers will get a total of 2 percent for merit-based raises next year. Half of that is permanent, and half would be a one-time bonus. State employee pay in Idaho lags far below market rates.

“Given what we’re doing with the employees of the state - a one percent ongoing and no definite signal to what we’re doing in the future - I have to give you a courtesy heads-up that I probably will not be supporting this bill,” Eskridge told the committee’s chairman.

Rep. Steven Miller, R-Fairfield, also objected to raises while pay for workers remains lean.

“It does seem odd to me that we’re giving these kinds of increases, given the other things we do with state employees,” he said.

The bill to approve the raises passed the Senate 30-5 Thursday. If it fails in the House, the funding - which is linked with the decision as a trailer bill - will be pulled back.

Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, argued a majority of those officials make much less in an elected position than they would working in the private sector.

“Not many people will take a decrease to become an elected official, and they have to run again to keep the job in four years,” he said. “I think we have to bring these up a little bit to attract the best and brightest.”

The lieutenant governor currently makes $35,700 a year. That would rise to $42,691 next year, and to 35 percent of the governor’s salary by 2019, or $45,973.90. The Idaho attorney general makes $107,100 a year. That would rise July 1 to $124,000, matching that of a district judge, and stay there for the next four years.

The governor’s salary would rise in 2015 to $121,975, and to $131,354 by 2019.

The secretary of state, controller, treasurer and schools superintendent each make $101,150. Under the bill, they’d see that rise to $103,679 next year. Eventually, by 2019, they’d make 85 percent of the governor’s salary, or $111,650.90.

Committee chairman Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, reminded lawmakers they were voting to increase pay for a position, not a person. The bill would only impact Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and other current officeholders if they are re-elected next year.

Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, also urged committee members to consider the public services provided by those who fill elected official spots.

“This is what was chosen by leadership on both sides of the rotunda,” she said. “It is for offices that have a tremendous responsibility to the state of Idaho. They run a very big business and it takes a lot of time and effort.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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