The Idaho Budget Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add important context to lawmakers’ discussions as they are considered on the floor of the House and Senate. 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: HB 634 appropriates $74 million to fund school lunches for students over the summer, free of charge
The Public School Supplemental includes a request for $74 million in federal money from a federal grant fund for school nutrition and for supply chain issues associated with food procurement. Citing the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has changed the rules for its Agriculture School Nutrition Program. Under the National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option, all students may receive meals at no charge to them, and schools that provide the meals receive higher reimbursement rates.
The supporting documentation for this bill says that the spending run rate for this program is 83% higher than the rate for average years. This supplemental makes Idaho more dependent on federal money to make Idaho children more dependent on the government to eat, regardless of need.
The obvious question is why is Idaho willing to use borrowed federal money to increase dependence on programs that all students clearly don’t need, but some do? So the view is that parents aren’t primarily responsible to feed their children, the state is feeding them now. There are two other items in this supplemental that could easily be considered, separately, without this nutritional funding line item.
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