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.
There are a number of objections to this appropriation:
- The appropriation of $10.6 million will be used to relocate the state treasurer’s office and staff and remodel the north wing of the first Capitol floor, the east wing of the first floor and garden level. The remodeling in the Capitol will provide an estimated 49 private offices for House members who currently do not have a private office with a door. This request is for a Fiscal Year 2019 supplemental with an emergency enactment clause. There is no legitimate reason why this should not have been a Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation. An FY20 appropriation more realistically encompasses the timing of this work and would legitimately be reflected in the overall FY20 budget request.
- The cost per office would be approximately $144,000. It is difficult to justify this level of expense for offices that will be used by legislators for approximately 11 to 13 weeks per year. If you factor in the cost to move the treasurer, the all-in cost per office is $216,000.
- Other alternatives exist that could provide more privacy to the existing cubicle arrangements; higher side-walls (although not to the ceiling), baffling, etc. Some additional staff space could be added in the Capitol but it would not be unreasonable to add it in adjacent buildings in the future.
- Appropriating $10.6 million for additional offices for part-time legislators does not send the appropriate message to the general public and it will put legislators in an awkward position should they seek to rein in agency spending just as they move into their private offices.