BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A bipartisan lawmaker panel Tuesday backed a proposal for a 3 percent pay increase for Idaho's state workers in fiscal year 2018, aligning with Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's recommendation he made earlier this year.

The 18-member Change in Employee Compensation Committee narrowly agreed Tuesday that the pay should be awarded on a merit basis. The committee's decision came after a lengthy three-hour hearing, where multiple proposals were shot down.

The recommendation is only that — the full Legislature will now have to back such a push, which would cost taxpayers about $18 million. State officials have increasingly lamented that Idaho state agencies are falling behind on paying their workers.

During Tuesday's meeting, lawmakers remained split if they agreed with that assessment. The recommendation for higher state worker pay doesn't include public school teachers, a separate group that is expected also to get a pay bump in fiscal year 2018.

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