I spent several hours last night reviewing the governor’s budget proposal. While I’m still left with several questions about specific initiatives, I can tell you that the governor’s budget is simply unaffordable. It is, in two words, “larded up” with many line items that total more than $100 million in new spending from the general fund.
Other new spending is hidden away in less obvious so-called “dedicated fund” accounts, to the tune of about $29 million. Indeed, by transferring general tax dollars to special dedicated accounts, the governor manages to make his general fund spending blueprint appear smaller than it actually is. When you take the budget gimmicks out, the governor's general fund spending increase is closer to 6 percent than his previously stated 3.7 percent.
And, of course, I remain deeply concerned that the governor’s budget, again, does nothing to end our addiction to federal money. Indeed, the governor’s budget merely ups the dosage on the federal drugs by 2.2 percent, or about $50 million.
It is not a conservative budget, despite reports to the contrary. In fact, it very much reminds me of the spending spree I’ve watched state government go on in legislative sessions past, those in which lawmakers were prompted to step outside the Statehouse to make sure they’re actually governing in Idaho.
I’m working on an alternative budget proposal for lawmakers to consider. In the meantime, there’s a ton of work to do to get state spending back in line. To that end, Gov. Butch Otter’s budget is hardly a starting point.