The Idaho Spending 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: House Bill 752 appropriates $25,767,500 and 128.00 full-time positions to the Department of Administration for fiscal year 2023.
House Bill 752 would raise the Department of Administration’s budget by 5.1% and add four full-time positions to its staff. These positions include project managers and coordinators.
The most objectionable component of this budget is the agency’s plan to backfill the Employee Health Plan Reserve Fund with $25 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Legislative Budget Book notes that this measure is designed to restore any losses to the fund from COVID-19 related expenses.
Backfilling employee benefit plans was not what these funds were originally appropriated to do. When the Legislature decided to accept ARPA funding in 2021, it asserted in Section 67-3533 of Idaho Code that these funds “are borrowed from our grandchildren” and should be spent on projects that directly benefit them. Knowing this, it is difficult for the department to justify how spending ARPA dollars on large, “temporary,” and costly government programs will benefit our grandchildren. Rather, these initiatives only grow the debt they will have to pay and the hardship they must endure to do so.