© 2023 Boise State Public Radio
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Stay up to date on the 2023 legislative session – subscribe to our Legislative Round-Up newsletter today.

State pay raise plan wouldn't keep up with inflation for majority of workers

The front of the Idaho Capitol building showing the bell and stairs. Two people are standing on the left-hand side.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

Gov. Brad Little is prioritizing law enforcement raises with his latest proposal, while pay for the majority of state workers wouldn’t keep up with inflation under the plan.

Idaho State Police, workers at the Idaho Department of Correction and other officers would see a 10% pay hike for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1. The rest would receive a 4% merit increase.

The move would cost about $53 million from the state general fund.

It’s not clear how many people would qualify. A spokesperson for the Idaho Division of Human Resources didn’t immediately return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The latest data from the Idaho Controller’s office shows about 2,400 people work for the state police and department of correction. Other agencies, like Idaho Fish and Game also have law enforcement personnel.

Raises for the remaining 23,000 state employees would fall well short of inflation, which totaled 8.3% in the Mountain region, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Division of Human Resources Director Lori Wolff says competition for law enforcement professionals has been stiff when they could earn more at other agencies.

“They have been difficult to attract, they have been difficult to retain and they’re leaving quickly for city and county jobs,” Wolff said Wednesday to the legislative Change in Employee Compensation Committee.

On average, she said, state law enforcement personnel earn about 10% less than their peers.

Compared to public employees elsewhere, state workers in Idaho earn about 9% less and 15% below the private sector market average.

“We are trying to be aggressive, we are trying to be innovative and we’re trying to put a long-term plan in place that’s going to support employees moving forward,” Wolff said.

The latest revenue forecast predicts a $1.5 billion general fund surplus, which Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) said is plenty to raise everyone’s wages.

“When we’ve got that much money in the bank, it seems to me that we should do everything we can to make sure our employees are at least made whole,” Gannon said.

Sen. Jim Guthrie (R-McCammon) said he’s not dismissing the idea that some of these proposed raises are justified, but that the legislature needs to be wise stewards of taxpayers’ money.

“We’ve got to remember there’s 1.8 million people [in the state of Idaho] out there as well that also are having the same types of struggles,” Guthrie said.

Wolff’s recommendation includes another 4.5% merit raise for all state employees in fiscal year 2025, along with an additional 5.5% bump for those in nursing, IT and engineering positions. However, lawmakers will not act on that plan this year.

The Change in Employee Compensation Committee is expected to issue its recommendation to the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee later this month. JFAC’s approval would send the plan to the House and Senate for a vote.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!