Gov. Little recommends 3 percent merit-based raises for state employees, no change to benefits

January 9, 2019

BOISE — With Idaho state worker pay lagging behind both the public and private markets, state employees could be looking at 3 percent raise next year, with no changes to benefits.

Those are the recommendations of Gov. Brad Little, siding with the Idaho Division of Human Resources’ proposal in its annual report. The division calls for “at least a 3 percent increase” for state workers, along with no benefit changes.

In 2018, state workers’ compensation was 10.7 percent below other public-sector jobs and 12.4 percent below private-sector jobs, according to the report. Total compensation includes not only salaries for the 25,000 state employees, but benefits and insurance coverage for about 47,000 workers and dependents.

Alex Adams, Little’s budget chief, addressed the Change in Employee Compensation Committee Tuesday with Little’s recommendations, which he said were directly influenced by the division’s data.

A 3 percent merit-based salary increase would follow an average 3 percent increase for state workers in each of the last four years; the state does not provide cost-of-living salary increases.

Susan Buxton, the state human resources division administrator, noted the performance-driven raises increase recognition and reward of employees for their contribution to the state of Idaho.

With unemployment rates below 3 percent, she said, the state has a harder time recruiting and retaining workers. According to the report, the state of Idaho experienced 15 percent turnover in the last year. The number is not surprising, she said.

In a statewide opinion benefits survey taken by 65 percent — just over 12,000 — of state employees, respondents had no interest in increased salary at the reduction of benefits.

One area that sparked concern among committee members is Little’s budget proposal to use $6.3 million from reserves next year toward state employee health insurance costs. The change would mean one-time savings from the general fund and avoidance of federal penalties for allowing reserves to build too high.

The dip into the reserve fund would mean that next year the state would spend $11,020 per state employee health insurance costs — $630 less than last year — but would pay $13,850 the following year.

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