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 803 appropriates $100,643,000 and 44.00 full-time positions to the Department of Commerce for fiscal year 2023.
House Bill 803 is a revised version of House Bill 754 which appropriated $161,533,400 and 48.00 full time positions for fiscal year 2023. Overall, this is a reduction of $60.9 million and 4.0 full-time positions from the original proposal made in HB 754.
The purpose of the Idaho Department of Commerce is to spend money in a way that will lead to more jobs and economic activity throughout the Gem State. HB 803 raises the department’s budget by 167.7% from what was appropriated last year. This staggering increase is due to $50 million in federal grant money supplied by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Though this is a 50% reduction compared to the original proposal in HB 754, there is still a total of $100 million available through the IIJA that can be used. It is likely that these expenses will be spread out over the next two budget cycles, rather than exhausting them all in fiscal year 2023.
Expanding on the issues with the use of IIJA funding, we see that just under 68% of the Department of Commerce’s budget comes from federal funding. Additionally, this budget uses $2 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to pay for programs like economic planning and the Idaho Food Bank. When the Legislature accepted ARPA funding in 2021, it recognized in Section 67-3533 of Idaho Code that these dollars were borrowed from our grandchildren and should be spent to benefit them. Though one may have a strong argument for how infrastructure updates would benefit our grandchildren, it is difficult to make the same argument for using these funds for the Idaho Food Bank.