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Budget-writers introduce federal funding accountability plan

Budget-writers introduce federal funding accountability plan

Dustin Hurst
March 3, 2015
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March 3, 2015

A new bill introduced Tuesday by the Legislature’s budget committee would help Idaho plan for large-scale federal funding cuts, plus add predictability for spending plans.

The Joint Finance Appropriations-Finance Committee introduced legislation Tuesday to require state agencies to report federal dollars and grants to the Legislature on an annual basis.

The bill, brainchild of Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman, would also require state agencies to identify potential federal funding reductions for specific programs, a mandate that would aid the long-term budgeting process.

Hoffman’s bill won unanimous approval from the committee. The committee declined to hold a public hearing on the plan, choosing instead to send the proposal directly to the Senate floor.

Hoffman told lawmakers the bill will prepare the state for fiscal catastrophe that could occur if the federal government ever decides to restrain its spending.

“States have got to get a handle on federal funding,” Hoffman told the panel.

The legislation trails an executive order written by Gov. Butch Otter that contained much of the same language. Hoffman said it’s a model for others.

“Other states have been impressed with Gov. Otter’s executive order,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest in building on that great work.”

Upon questioning from Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, Hoffman told the committee the extra reporting requirements won’t mean extra burdens for state agencies or taxpayers.

There was no discussion on the bill before the panel voted unanimously to approve it.

Idaho continues relying on the federal government for more cash. In 2014, federal spending made up 36 percent of Idaho’s entire spending plan, up from 33 percent in 2003. In 2014, Idaho approved spending $2.35 billion in federal dollars.

According to data provided by spending watchdog State Budget Solutions, states averaged about 30 percent of money in budgets coming from the federal government. Mississippi, at 42 percent, ranked No. 1 among the states on federal reliance and Idaho checked in at No. 15.

North Dakota ranked last, relying on the federal government for only 19 percent of spending.

State Budget Solutions highlighted Idaho as a leader on the issue in its report.

“Now is the time for states to prepare for likely cuts in federal aid,” said Bob Williams, president of State Budget Solutions. “Idaho and Utah have already crafted plans to operate with less federal money. Statehouses across the country would do well to follow their lead.”

Others have voiced concerns about federal spending and the trickle-down effect on states. Congressman Raul Labrador, one of Idaho’s two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, told IdahoReporter.com last month that states should be very cautious about using federal dollars.

Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com.

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