The Idaho Spending 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.
Bill description: House Bill 711 appropriates $2,817,400 and 14.00 FTP to Idaho Public Television while allocating $6.6 million and 56.48 FTP in dedicated funds as continuous appropriations.
Idaho Public Television (IPTV) provides real-time coverage of the Idaho Legislature and Supreme Court hearings while also providing a platform for local programming. As an entity of the Idaho Board of Education, IPTV also provides educational programs for children and parents that act as an arm for the school system and the state.
At first look, HB 711 calls for a 70.5% budget cut and a loss of 56.48 full-time positions. This leaves the agency with a $2.8 million budget for fiscal year 2023 and 14.00 full-time positions.
A closer look at HB 711 reveals that these numbers are deceiving. This bill contains a provision to continuously appropriate any funds from private donations, removing direct oversight from the Legislature on more than 70% ($6,612,400) of the agency’s budget and 80% (56.48 FTP) of its staffing.
The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee has statutory authority to directly appropriate these funds should they decide to do so in the future (Section 67-3514, Idaho Code). However, the committee must vote to intentionally suspend the budget rule exemption if it wants to and appropriate the dedicated funds themselves. Otherwise, IPTV does not need to disclose this money when submitting its budget request each year. Therefore, these funds remain hidden from legislative scrutiny and debate should a motion to view them fail to receive majority support in committee. This reduces overall fiscal transparency and accountability in government.
Compounding the transparency issue, about $2.8 million of the IPTV budget of $9.4 million, comes from General Fund dollars provided by Idaho taxpayers. While the network does have local content, much of its national programming has a decidedly leftist slant such as: the PBS NewsHour, BBC World News America, and Amanpour and Company. PBS describes the last example this way: “Christiane Amanpour leads discussions about world issues and interviews with global leaders.” This is a show from a journalist with a long history of promoting a leftist worldview.
Additionally, this network has a history of using its reach to indoctrinate children with social justice ideology. The actions of this agency are clearly ideological and agenda-driven. Given these facts, their operations do not constitute an appropriate use of public dollars, nor do they contribute to the proper role of government.
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