House Bill 187 — Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs

Fred Birnbaum House budget bills 2019

The Idaho Budget Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add important context to lawmakers’ discussions as the spending bills are considered on the House and Senate floors. Among the issues we look at in drawing a conclusion about a budget:

Does the agency requesting these funds serve a proper role of government? Has wasteful or duplicative spending been identified within the agency, and if so, has that spending been eliminated or corrected? Does the budget examine existing spending to look for opportunities to contain spending, e.g., through a base reduction? If there is a maintenance budget, is that maintenance budget appropriate? Are the line items appropriate in type and size, and are they absolutely necessary for serving the public? Does the budget contemplate the addition of new employees or programs? Does the appropriation increase dependency on the federal government?

Our analysis is intended to provide lawmakers and their constituents with a frame of reference for conservative budgeting, by summarizing whether appropriation measures contain items that are sincerely objectionable or sincerely supportable.

Analysis:

The Commission on Hispanic Affairs was created by the Legislature in 1987. Its statutorily defined function is, among other things, to gather information and conduct studies “on problems and programs concerning Hispanic people” and “to stimulate public awareness of the problems of Hispanic people by conducting a program of public education” as well as “advise the governor, legislature and state departments and agencies of the nature, magnitude, and priorities of the problems of Hispanic people.” The statute goes on to say that the agency is to “propose new programs concerning Hispanic people to public and private agencies and evaluate for such agencies existing programs or prospective legislation concerning Hispanic people.”

In summary, the statute appears to single out a group of people based on race in a way that is part demeaning and part pandering. It suggests that if you’re Hispanic, your “problems” need study by the government and the creation of programs in order to address those problems. The “pandering” part comes in by statutorily segregating races as having separate priorities from the remaining population, to be addressed by a specially-tasked agency of government that will create programs to address those priorities. Were the state to write similar statutes for other populations, they would be labeled as racist.

Indeed, while Hispanics make up about 12.7 percent of Idaho’s population, other minorities comprising less than 2 percent of the state’s population, arguably less represented and perhaps having their own “problems” and “priorities” receive no special recognition from the government and don’t require government “help.”

Specific to the budget before the Legislature, JFAC added a line item, neither requested by the agency nor recommended by the governor, for $30,000 for statewide outreach efforts. That line item is the primary reason the agency’s budget will increase 18.9 percent over the prior year.

Final score: (-1)

Note: The original post said the Hispanics make up about 12 percent of Idaho’s population. This post has been changed to reflect updated numbers. Here’s our source for the correction