“It’s time for this to be removed from the books,” said Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian. His proposed legislation, House Bill 397, was first read Wednesday in the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee. It would repeal the section of Idaho Code that authorizes the payments.
Harris said the program was initially created by legislation passed in 1975 and signed into law by Democrat Gov. Cecil Andrus. Then, after only three years of operation, in 1978 legislation was passed to place limits on the funding of the program, which was signed into law by Democrat Gov. John Evans.
“The exact history of the program is difficult to obtain,” Harris explained, adding that “the state hasn’t kept very precise records on it.”
According to his research, there have been at least two widows who have participated in the system, but Harris suggests that there may have been as many as four in total. He also says that the last known widow to participate in the program passed away in 1991, but even determining the identity of that individual is difficult.
Harris also said that the precise reasons for creating the program are uncertain. “Obviously, some people in our government some time ago thought that it was a nice thing to do.” Historically, former Democrat Gov. Charles Gossett passed away in September of 1974, and the supplemental retirement program was legislatively created less than six months later.
Harris said the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) supports his efforts. “PERSI agrees that this is program is outdated and that it needs to go.”
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