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Budget writers sparing agency phaseouts, for now

Budget writers sparing agency phaseouts, for now

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
February 26, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
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February 26, 2010

Legislative budget writers appear not be to following through with the phase out of state funding for several agencies that Gov. Butch Otter called for in January. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee ignored the budget item eliminating funding for the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs on Friday. The commission will still see a $12,000 reduction in state funding in the next budget. The commission would receive $94,800 from the state out of a total budget of $291,400.

JFAC co-chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said changes to how the state funds the commission should start elsewhere. “We are not the policy committee to do the phase out,” she said. “That is above our pay grade.”

On Friday, JFAC also approved spending for the Soil Conservation Commission (SCC), which is also facing consolidation. The SCC works with local soil conservation districts on conservation and treatment programs. The governor’s budget included shifting all that funding into the Department of Agriculture, which JFAC did not adopt. Budget writers did shift four employees from the Soil Conservation Commission to the Office of Species Conservation (OSC) for programming work. Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, said moving the employees makes sense, since their work comes from federal grants that are given to the OSC. “It reduces a layer of state government,” he said. “This will streamline it.” Brackett said those jobs would go away when federal funding runs out.

The SCC would lose seven staff in total, though administrator Sara Schmidt is fine working with a smaller staff, according to Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell. “It’s not as bad a cut as it looks like on paper right here,” he said. Brackett added that the reductions would trim staff in Boise but maintain technical staff in the field across Idaho.

Several of the state agencies targeted by the governor have already made changes. The Idaho Human Rights Commission is set to merge with the Department of Labor and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is reshaping its business, including increasing park fees.

JFAC will consider the budgets of other state agencies that Otter wants to phase out funding for, including the State Independent Living Council, Developmental Disabilities Council, and Idaho Public Television, next week.

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