In a time when the Legislature is searching high and low for areas to make cuts and save money, Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, and Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, feel it is unacceptable for any public employee to receive severance pay from the state.
The lawmakers presented a bill to the House State Affairs Committee Thursday that 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, 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 hearing 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.
"We've had a very strong policy on severance pay," said Pasley-Stuart. "And that is that we don't pay."
According to the Idaho Freedom Foundation's (see disclosure note at bottom) 2010 Pork Report, 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 report notes that employee also was made eligible to receive her full retiree benefit, though she had technically retired early.
Neither Higgins nor Pasley-Stuart referenced the report, but instead said that the circumstances surrounding two of the dismissals were "secret."
The bill was successfully introduced on a unanimous vote by lawmakers. The House State Affairs Committee will discuss the bill further next week.
(Note: For full disclosure, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which produced the 2010 Pork Report, is the parent company of IdahoReporter.com. IFF executive director Wayne Hoffman was not in attendance at the hearing on the severance pay issue Thursday. Neither Higgins nor Pasley-Stuart mentioned any involvement with IFF or Hoffman in crafting the legislation.)