Idaho Legislature up for 1.5% pay increase, roughly in line with other state employees

Unless they overturn a unanimous recommendation from a citizens’ panel, Idaho’s part-time legislators will receive a $246 annual pay increase, or 1.5 percent.

Pay for the 63rd Idaho Legislature would increase from $16,438 to $16,684, under Tuesday’s decision by the Citizens’ Committee on Legislative Compensation.

The committee sought to approximate raises for statewide elected officials and state employees, said Committee Chairwoman Deb Kristensen. Legislative terms are two years and begin in December of even-numbered years.

The Legislature appropriated a 1 percent increase in salary spending for state employees for the fiscal year beginning in July, plus a one-time 1 percent bonus. Pay increases are based on merit, however, and may vary.

The Citizens’ Committee suggested increases in two other areas, constituent services and a per diem for lawmakers maintaining second residences during the session.

The unvouchered constituent service allowance would rise to $2,250, up from $1,875 in 2012-14. The figure was $2,500 in 2008-2010, but dropped to $1,875 during the Great Recession.

Legislators whose primary residence is outside Ada County and who maintain a second residence in Ada County would receive $129 per day during the legislative session, up from $122 in 2012-14.

Legislators who do not maintain a second residence within 50 miles of the Statehouse would continue to receive $49 per day during the session, plus actual mileage reimbursement for daily round-trip travel.

Lawmakers may also seek reimbursement for actual official travel expenses, after submitting proof of expenses. They also are eligible for medical, dental, life insurance and retirement benefits on par with full-time employees.

The recommendation of the Citizens’ Committee is subject to rejection by a vote of both houses. In 2009, the committee’s recommended salary increase to $16,921 was rejected by unanimous votes in the House and Senate. Two years ago, the Legislature let stand a 2 percent salary increase to $16,438. From 2007 to 2012, the base salary was $16,116 annually.

Two of the five voting committee members were appointed by Gov. Butch Otter, Bill Daniels and Eva Gay Yost. Three members were appointed by the Supreme Court, Kristensen, Reed Larsen and Bud Yost. Committee member and former Sen. Don Burtenshaw, appointed by Otter, recused himself and did not attend because a family member is running for the Legislature, said Kristensen.

The 2014 Legislature enacted 1.5 percent annual raises for five the seven statewide elected officials. Pay-raise bills for statewide officials are permitted by law only during quadrennial election years.

Pay for the governor will rise to $122,597 in 2016, $124,436 in 2017 and $126,302 in 2018. In 2017, the governor’s pay will become a benchmark for five other statewide officials, excepting attorney general.

Pay for secretary of state, controller, superintendent of public instruction and treasurer will rise to $104,207 by 2016.

Larger increases go to the part-time lieutenant governor and attorney general. Pay for the part-time lieutenant governor will rise to $42,909 in 2016.

Beginning in 2015, the attorney general’s pay will be pegged to the salary of district judges, currently $114,300. That will mean a 14.5 percent increase, from the current $99,825.

Beginning in 2017, the pay for five constitutional officers will be pegged to a percentage of the governor’s pay. The part-time lieutenant governor will receive 35 percent of gubernatorial pay and secretary of state, controller, superintendent of public instruction and treasurer will receive 85 percent of governor’s pay.

(DISCLOSURE: I am dating Chairwoman Kristensen.)

 

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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