BOISE, Idaho (AP) — State workers lamented wages falling further behind their private sector peers and urged a legislative panel to bring their salaries up — or risk losing employees to better-paying endeavors outside Idaho government.

Donna Yule, Idaho Public Employee Association dirctor, urged the Change in Employee Compensation Committee yesterday to begin a three-year program of raising worker salaries. Excluding benefits, Yule said, it would cost just over $16 million annually — but the expenditure would buttress morale that's taken a hit since the recession began in 2008.

Idaho State Police Association chairman Fred Rice said his agency struggles to compete with other police outfits. The average wage at the ISP, Rice told the panel, is $24 hourly. Meanwhile, average Ada County Sheriff's Department pay is $33.50. Rice said "We're behind the curve."