It looks like this session will be the session the Idaho Legislature finally addresses a critical issue Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has brought up for two years in a row: the right for Constitutional officers to refuse pay increases.
At issue is the fact that under Idaho Code, the Legislature currently has the ability to reject their own pay raises, but Constitutional officers do not. For two years, Superintendent Luna has asked for the same authority. This session, it will likely be resolved.
Superintendent Luna has asked the Idaho Legislature to take action each time he has stood before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC).
“Constitutional officers continue to receive pay increases even in this tough economic time, and it is not right. This must change,” Superintendent Luna said during his presentation to JFAC on January 28. “My employees and other state employees are taking furlough days, while the state is forcing its Constitutional Officers to take pay raises. We should not be taking this additional money from taxpayers at a time when Idahoans are losing their jobs and taking pay cuts.”
Under the current system, the Superintendent’s annual salary is set by the Legislature, and according to an Attorney General’s opinion published last year, it’s illegal for any constitutional officer to refuse an increase in pay. The opinion states that even in tight budget years – while all other programs and salaries are being cut – no Constitutional officer can refuse a raise or take a decrease in pay. Instead, they can donate the money, which Superintendent Luna did last year. But he still does not believe this is fair.
That is why he is currently working with legislative leadership and other constitutional officers to pass legislation that will finally give constitutional officers the right to reject pay increases.
We’ll keep you posted on the legislation’s progress.
For more information, check out a recent Times-News article on the issue.
~ Melissa M.