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Emilie Ritter Saunders reports:  Two studies released this week on Idaho’s workforce show state employees make less than their counterparts in neighboring states.

The Office of Performance Evaluations and the Division of Human Resources each released studies this week focused on understanding state employee pay and turnover. That’s after the Legislature requested the reports last year.

The study from the Division of Human Resources finds state worker pay is below market wages. The study says Idaho state employee wages are on average 10.7 percent lower than when compared to similar jobs in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The Office of Performance Evaluations’ study looks at compensation and turnover. It doesn’t include state employee’s benefit packages.

The study found 90 percent of Idaho’s classified employees earn less than the average market wage, or policy pay rate. Of those employees, nearly half make up to one-third less than market wage. The main reason for that: the recession. As Idaho cut funding for government agencies, employee pay wasn’t increased in four of the last 10 years.

The study also found about a quarter of current Idaho state employees say they’d leave their job for something else within the next two years.

In response to the report, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter wants to create a commission to study state worker issues, including compensation.

“Capable, motivated employees are critical to the success of State government,” Otter wrote in response. “It is important that we reward them for their dedication and performance.”

The governor said it was his intent during his first term to increase pay and benefits for state workers. He did that in fiscal years 2007-2009, but then pay was frozen for three years post-recession. Otter doesn’t include money in his 2014 budget for state employee raises.

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