BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Directors of state agencies said Thursday that Republican Gov. Brad Little’s budget giving state employees a 2% raise will help keep the state competitive and retain workers.

The Change in Employee Compensation Committee heard testimony concerning pay for the state’s 25,000 employees, the largest workforce in Idaho. Officials say the state’s total compensation for employees including benefits is 12% below the market.

Little’s recommendation to raise employee pay will cost the state about $19.2 million. The committee will vote next Thursday on whether to cut, approve or increase Little’s recommendation. The committee’s decision will then be sent to the legislature’s powerful budget-setting committee for its consideration.

“The 2% (change in employee compensation) equates to a better and easier time for us in a really difficult marketplace to be able to recruit qualified and quality employees for a really difficult job,” said Col. Kedrick Wills, director of the Idaho State Police.

Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said he spent his just-completed first year on the job visiting 45 facilities and meeting 2,500 employees, concluding job satisfaction motivated them.

“However, compassion and job satisfaction do not pay the bills at home,” he said, noting 388 employees voluntarily left. In 215 exit interviews, 54% said the they landed jobs with a pay increase of about 30%.

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The state has been boosting employee pay, increasing it 2% last year plus a $500 additional payout. Agency directors said losing experienced employees means facing the cost of hiring and training a new one.

Josh Tewalt, director of the Idaho Department of Correction, said raises in recent years have reduced turnover at his agency of some 2,000 workers that include 750 correctional officers.

“We attract a lot of people with some good skill sets who come to our agency and stay,” he said.

Republican Rep. Neil Anderson, co-chairman of the committee, also summarized written comments from about 30 state employees. He said the general concerns included new hires making the same as workers who had been there for several years, that the benefits were good but they didn’t pay the bills, and that housing costs were rising in many parts of the state.