Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little will see small pay increases in the next budget, but their offices receive reduced budgets, based on decisions by lawmakers Wednesday. A $1,900 raise for Otter and $500 raise for Little were set by the Legislature before either took office, and can’t be refused by the recipients or altered by the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC). Other elected officials see similar pay increases. Otter has donated his pay increases to school scholarship funds in the past.
“We don’t fool around with those salaries because you don’t want to create the situation where one party plays around with the salaries of another party,” said Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene. Salaries for elected officials are also set in advance to avoid one branch of government, the Legislature, from punishing the governor or the courts.
“I know the governor and others have asked to reject that raise … but we don’t know how to get around it,” said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. “It’s a predicament and it’s not easily explainable.” He said legislative leaders are considering changing the laws related to elected officials’ wages before this November’s statewide elections, but a proposal has yet to be introduced.
Beyond those raises, their executive offices took budget reductions. “It’s pretty clean,” said chief legislative budget analyst Cathy Holland-Smith. The governor’s executive office would get $1.8 million in general fund money, which would be a 4 percent reduction from the current budget. Last year, lawmakers gave the governor $7 million from the Budget Stabilization Fund. That money went to fund childhood immunizations, the State Tax Commission, the Idaho Department of Correction, and other agencies. The governor won’t get a similar amount of reserve money in the next budget year, which starts in July.
Other agencies in the executive branch would see reductions. The lieutenant governor’s office would see a 9.7 percent reduction, resulting in $135,500 in spending in the next budget. There are two staff for the lieutenant governor. Neither work year-round, according to Holland-Smith. The state treasurer’s office, which manages state investments, would see an 8.2 percent reduction in state funds and an overall budget of $2.5 million. The treasurer would spend $55,000 in dedicated funds to replace some computer servers. “They’ve become somewhat unreliable and they’re no longer under warranty, so that’s why they want to replace them,” said Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell. The governor’s Division of Financial Management would also take a 9.5 percent, $143,600, reduction in state spending.
On Thursday, JFAC will set budgets for the State Tax Commission and some agencies of the Department of Health and Welfare.
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