The Idaho Spending Index serves to provide a fiscally conservative perspective on state budgeting while providing an unbiased measurement of how Idaho lawmakers apply these values to their voting behavior on appropriations bills. Each bill is analyzed within the context of the metrics below. They receive one (+1) point for each metric that is satisfied by freedom-focused policymaking and lose one (-1) point for each instance in which the inverse is true. The sum of these points composes the score for the bill.
Analyst: Niklas Kleinworth
Bill Description: House Bill 344 appropriates $11,815,200 and 35.50 full-time positions to the Commission of Libraries for fiscal year 2024.
Does this budget enact powers and activities that extend beyond the proper role of government? Conversely, does this budget fulfill the proper role of government?
Among the line items contained within this budget is a provision for $40,000 from the General Fund to the kindergarten readiness program. This serves as a state-funded preschool program that acts as an arm of Gov. Brad Little’s literacy priorities. Preparing children for school is not the proper role of the state but the role of parents and families. This line item extends beyond the proper role of government.
Does this budget incur any wasteful spending among discretionary funds, including new line items? Conversely, does this budget contain any provisions that serve to reduce spending where possible (i.e. base reductions, debt reconciliation, etc.)?
In 2022, the Idaho Commission for Libraries sought to expand the collection of the Idaho Digital E-book Alliance to other schools and libraries. This move was controversial due to the Alliance’s dissemination of sexually explicit works to minors, resulting in the loss of $4 million in funding. The Commission also agreed to review the collection and evaluate the appropriateness of such works. Many of these works remain on the website at the time of this writing. House Bill 344 continues to fund the Idaho Digital E-book Alliance in the base appropriation. This is a wasteful provision.
Is the maintenance budget inappropriate for the needs of the state, the size of the agency, or the inflationary environment of the economy? Conversely, is the maintenance budget appropriate given the needs of the state and economic pressures?
This legislation sets the maintenance budget for the Commission for Libraries at $6,571,200, growing from the base by 11.5% over the last three years. This rate is slower than the rate of inflation over the same period, demonstrating acceptable growth in the cost to maintain the agency.
Does this budget perpetuate or expand state dependence on federal dollars, thereby violating principles of federalism? Conversely, does this budget actively reduce the amount of federal dollars used to balance this budget?
House Bill 344 appropriates $1,126,400 in federal funds for the Idaho Commission for Libraries, constituting over 60% of the agency’s total budget. Among these funds is a provision of $3,518,300 in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for digital training, programming, telehealth, and library improvements. There is also an appropriation of $1,750,000 from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to “ensure that Idahoans can use reliable high-speed internet.” This request originally came from the governor, not the agency. The legislature then added another $500,000 from this request when preparing this bill.
This legislation continues to use federal funds as a substantial portion of their budget and expands the use of the funds in the 2024 fiscal year.
STAY CONNECTED with the latest news, research and opinions from the Gem State.