With a looming state budget gap, Idaho's four top tax collectors wanted to show solidarity with state workers who were having their wages cut. So they took furlough days to reduce their own salaries.
Only trouble is, their voluntarily turning down salary violates state law, the tax collectors learned Wednesday — so they will get be paid for the days they took off.
Royce Chigbrow, David Langhorst, Sam Haws and Tom Katsilometes took 292 hours of furlough in recent months.
But since their salaries are set by the Legislature — part of a policy meant to remove pay from potential political interference — the state controller's office said they must be paid for furlough time, a total of $11,995.41.
"Since the inception of required furlough hours taken by Tax Commission employees, the commissioners have willingly participated and also taken the appropriate furlough hours," the commission wrote in a memo to its employees. "The commissioners have now been told that by doing so, we are violating state law. Therefore, we must comply with the law. We regret having to do this, but it is simply out of our hands."
Excluding the final pay period of fiscal year 2010, all 400 State Tax Commission employees have taken 27,040 hours of furlough, saving Idaho $670,108.59, commission spokeswoman Liz Rodosovich said.
Now that they're being paid for their furlough time, tax commissioners could still donate a share of their salaries to Idaho or a charity. But the commissioners, who earn about $85,000 annually, would be on the hook for any tax liabilities.
Langhorst said Wednesday he's still deciding how to address the situation — and his share of the furlough pay.
He joined the Tax Commission on July 6, 2009 and says it was standard practice then for commissioners to take furloughs along with the agency's other employees, to participate in cost savings to fill a looming state budget hole.
"We took those furlough days in good faith," Langhorst said.
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