The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee approved changes to the salary for constitutional officers that would reduce their salaries 4 percent next year before raising them in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, called the increases in the out years very, very modest.
After the 4 percent cut in 2011, salaries for statewide officers would return to their current dollar amount in 2012. Then, pay for the attorney general, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, state controller, state controller, and lieutenant governor would be based on a percentage of the governor’s salary. The attorney general would get a salary at 90 percent of the governor’s $117,000 salary for 2013, while the lieutenant governor’s salary would be 30 percent of that total. That change would raise the lieutenant governor’s salary from $30,400 to $35,100. That would be the highest proportional increase, though salaries for the secretary of state, state treasurer, state controller and superintendent of public instruction would rise by $5,694, up to $99,450 in 2012.
The current salary structure has all statewide officers getting 3 percent salary increases every year, which they are unable to turn down. Jason Hancock, the deputy chief of staff to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, said Luna opposes the raises. “I have to convey the superintendent’s opposition to this bill and any bill that gives raises to constitutional officers that fails to give the constitutional officer the ability to refuse that increase,” he said.
Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said salaries for statewide officers are protected to prevent a “race to the bottom” of leaders rejecting increases. He also said future elected officials could depend on the their salary to send their kids to college. Under the state constitution, lawmakers need to set salaries for statewide offices before the positions are filled by an election. “The whole process is designed to take personalities out of it,” Stegner said.
The two Democrats on the Senate committee voted against the changes. “When people sign up to be candidates, they know what they’re getting into,” said Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise. She also said the $5,000 raises for some officials is a lot of money. “To say that that’s a small number and inconsequential is inappropriate.”
Kelly advocated setting a salary for the four-year positions and not changing them. She also critiqued Geddes’ assertion that Idaho’s officials are paid less than governors and attorneys general in other states. Geddes said that Gov. Butch Otter is the 39th highest paid governor in the country. “I think analogies with other states are irrelevant,” Kelly said. “Last time I checked, we’re not competing with other states for constitutional officers.”
“I think the case can be made that Idaho is significantly lower than other states in paying elected officials,” Geddes told IdahoReporter.com. He said that during the past few decades, salaries for constitutional officers has lagged behind the salaries of other state employees.
The changes to salaries for elected officials now faces a full Senate vote. The House approved the legislation March 25.