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Federal cash accountability bill headed to Otter’s desk

Federal cash accountability bill headed to Otter’s desk

Dustin Hurst
April 1, 2015
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April 1, 2015

A plan to require greater oversight of federal cash in state budgets is headed to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk.

The Idaho House cleared the measure on a 68 to 0 vote Wednesday, sending it to the governor.

The bill, co-sponsored by budget committee co-chairs Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, follows a 2014 executive order written by Otter that required much of the same disclosure. That order, Bell said, came after budget-writers were left in the dark about potential funding cuts from the federal sequester.

Bell said the new bill would help lawmakers better plan for the future by providing them with information about potentially uneven funding.

“That’s not fun,” Bell said of not knowing if state taxpayers will have to suddenly pick up a hefty tab due to federal spending reductions.

Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, added to Bell’s words.

“Part of state sovereignty is funding your own government fully and not relying on the federal government for budgetary needs,” he said.

Most state-funded agencies are included in the bill, but colleges and universities get a pass -- sort of. During committee testimony, higher education officials said they already fill out similar reports, which they submit to the State Board of Education.

Another set of reporting requirements, officials said, would needlessly burden the schools.

Affected agencies would have to identify all federal dollars in their budgets when they submit annual spending plans to the governor each fall. They would also need to disclose when they know of coming cuts or eliminations to federal funding sources.

As Bell noted, federal dollars make up a significant portion of some budgets. Federal cash funds 20 percent of the school funding budget, she said.

For another example, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare relies on the federal government for a whopping 64 percent of its funding.

Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation, which publishes IdahoReporter.com, played a significant role in this legislation.

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