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House votes to cut off severance pay for state employees

House votes to cut off severance pay for state employees

Dustin Hurst
March 11, 2010
Dustin Hurst
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March 11, 2010

Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, feels it is an "outrage" that while legislators are struggling to fund government operations due to the economic downturn, a small number of employees are receiving a form of severance payment from the state.

Pasley-Stuart and Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, presented a bill to members of the House Thursday that would ultimately cut off any form of severance payments for state employees.

The bill would prohibit the state from using any funds to pay any sort of severance packages to any state employees, with the exception of those employees of higher education institutions in Idaho.  The exemption was made for college and university employees, Pasley-Stuart pointed out in the committee hearing on the bill, because university human resources personnel said the restriction shouldn’t be applied to someone who might be let go in the middle of a school year, which would prohibit an employee, more specifically a teacher, from obtaining employment elsewhere.

Pasley-Stuart cited examples of three state employees who collectively received a total of $125,000 in payments from the state’s general fund prior to early retirement.  Higgins told IdahoReporter.com after the committee hearing on the bill that though the employees had retirement packages from the Public Employees Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI), the Idaho Department of Administration had decided to give the employees the funds for reasons unknown to Higgins.  Pasley-Stuart wants the legislation to reaffirm the state’s stance severance pay.

The state of Idaho has very strong severance policy," said Pasley-Stuart.  "We rarely, if ever, pay severance pay."

According to Pasley-Stuart, the former Division of Human Resources director received $72,000 from the state that allowed her to retire early and still receive the regular benefit from PERSI.  According to the report, the Idaho State Tax Commission also paid out $13,000 to an employee fired for disciplinary reasons.  The Idaho State Department of Education also participated, giving $42,000 to an employee, which allowed her to retire two years early.

The bill closes a loophole that state departments used in each instance to transfer the funds to respective employees.  According to Pasley-Stuart, the procedure used was "purchase of services," which essentially means a buyout for employees.  The bill passed by the House would strictly outlaw state departments from using that method of buyout in the future.

The legislation passed 64-0 and now heads to the Senate.

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