The Idaho House voted 39-22 Tuesday to give 2 percent raises to key commissioners at some government agencies.
The raises approved by the House would match those appropriated for all state workers earlier this year.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Max Black, R-Boise, would give 2 percent raises to oversight board members at the Idaho State Tax Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and the Industrial Commission. The bill is also sponsored by House State Affairs Committee chair Tom Loertscher, R-Iona.
The proposed raises would cost $21,400 annually and would come from general and dedicated funds.
The Public Utility Commission oversight board members, the highest-paid of the bunch already, could see $94,010 if the bill clears the Senate, up from the $92,167 they now receive. The three top Industrial Commission officials would see their pay jumped from $89,711 to $91,505. Finally, tax commissioners would receive $87,156 under the plan, a jump from $85,447.
Black, when questioned about the reasoning behind the bill, said there is no specific purpose for the bill, other than commissioner desires to see the increases made.
The divided vote highlights an ongoing ideological rift in the Idaho House. The 22 who voted against the measure are some of the most conservative members of the lower chamber. Many of those same members opposed plans to give all state workers 2 percent pay raises, favoring instead either a merit pay system or a blended model.
Some, including Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, have complained that an across-the-board 2 percent pay hike for state workers will unfairly benefit higher-paid employees, like commissions and agency chiefs. Hagedorn has argued several times throughout this session that the state should target workers with lower wages for higher percentage raises, including snowplow drivers who also qualify for federal food stamps.
Rep. Erik Simspon, R-Idaho Falls, who opposed the 2 percent hike in committee, complained about Black’s measure on the House floor. “I question if this is a good idea,” Simpson said, who opposed giving the commissioners the same percentage as lower-paid employees. “I can’t accept that.”