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House Bill 318 — Community Colleges Appropriation

House Bill 318 — Community Colleges Appropriation

Fred Birnbaum
March 10, 2021

The Idaho Spending Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add some important context to lawmakers’ discussions as the spending bills are considered on the House and Senate floors. As we look at the budget, we consider the following issues:

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? Have budget-writers reviewed existing outlays 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 adding 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 truly  objectionable or legitimate and worthy of support.

Bill Description: Community Colleges, FY22 Appropriation

Rating: -1

This budget contains an infusion of $20 million of federal Covid relief funding for Idaho’s public community colleges. It is always important to keep in mind that this is not free money, but money the federal government is borrowing. One key line item that highlights the problematic nature of “free” money is the $1 million appropriation for a “zero-cost textbook program.” This program may have zero cost for students, but it certainly does not provide a good lesson in economics. This program borrows money to provide goods to students who would otherwise have to purchase them. Is there a philosophical difference between free textbooks and free tuition? We believe not.

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