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 824 appropriates $11,206,700 and 37.50 full-time positions to the Commission for Libraries for fiscal year 2023.
House Bill 824 makes technical corrections in Section 4 of House Bill 806. House Bills 824 and 806 both revised versions of failed House Bill 784, reducing the overall budget by $307,000 by completely removing funding to support the Idaho Digital Ebook Alliance (IDEA). Funding this program would have been problematic due to IDEA’s reputation for providing materials that are obscene or promote critical social justice and marxist ideology. Additionally, Section 4 of the bill provides intent language that essentially requires library officials to follow existing Idaho obscenity laws. This is really a half-hearted attempt to reign-in abusive practices within the Commission for Libraries, but it is a step in the right direction. Overall, removing this line item and clarifying legislative intent are substantial improvements in this budget when compared to House Bill 784.
Despite the improvements, there are a number of problems with this appropriation. Historically, this budget consisted of less than 30% federal funds. This budget vaults that percentage to 60% federally sourced money. More troubling is that the majority of this federal money comes from ARPA funds, money borrowed from our grandchildren according to Senate Bill 1204 (2021), the bill accepting the federal ARPA money.
This bill also contains a large grant using ARPA money for a telehealth grant. This is far afield for our public libraries, and it is concerning that federal funding is driving this new program.