JFAC Takes First Look At Idaho Budget Requests

Oct 9, 2019

Idaho lawmakers are getting an early look at budget requests from state agencies in the face of declining revenues.

Cuts to tax rates over the last couple of years, both in Idaho and at the federal level, have played a role in tax receipts coming in nearly $130 million less than forecasted in January.

Gov. Brad Little (R) sent two memos to every state agency earlier this year, telling them to strictly limit new requests to emergencies or find ways to cut their existing budgets.

But Paul Headlee, the director of the legislature’s budget office, says new requests and growth in education, healthcare and corrections would lead to a deficit of at least $50 million if everything were funded.

“That is what an unbalanced budget looks like and that’s not where we want to be,” Headlee said.

The request for public education totaled $101.8 million higher than current spending, or a 5.5% increase. That would include $40 million for salary increases for teachers, as well as 3% raises for administrators and classified staff.

This year marks the fifth and final year of former Gov. Butch Otter’s plan to attract and retain veteran teachers by bumping up their pay, but no concrete plan has materialized for what, if any, steps should be taken next.

Department of Correction officials requested a nearly 17% increase in their proposal, with much of those costs stemming from sending inmates to out-of-state prisons, higher medical costs and coming into compliance with a court order.

State budget officials say September revenues came in higher than expected, but that they can’t promise a continual surplus that Idaho has seen in recent years.

Lawmakers will take a deeper look at these proposals when they reconvene in January.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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