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Senate demands better oversight of federal dollars in state budgets

Senate demands better oversight of federal dollars in state budgets

Dustin Hurst
March 20, 2015
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March 20, 2015

Idaho budget-writers could soon have better oversight of how state agencies use federal dollars in their yearly operations.

“This is information,” said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. “Information is power.”

Cameron, head of Idaho’s budget committee, successfully backed legislation Friday that will mandate state agencies disclose how they use federal dollars and prepare lawmakers for the expiration of those funds.

Cameron said while he and fellow budget-writers appropriate federal cash, they had no tools in state code to watch the dollars.

“We track those federal funds,” Cameron said. “There’s no mechanism for how that was reported.”

The plan asks agencies to identify federal dollars in their budget when they submit their budgets to the governor’s office each year. State agencies would also be required to tell lawmakers when they know federal dollars could go away and Idaho taxpayers are on the hook for program funding.

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, praised the plan, telling colleagues it will help the state prepare for the day the federal government addresses its fiscal woes.

“I do think it’s useful to have this,” Vick said. “It gives us the opportunity to better plan if those funds are ever reduced.”

Vick previously served on Idaho’s budget committee, and also served on a similar panel during a stint in the Montana Legislature.

Idaho’s colleges and universities would get a pass, sort of, under the plan. They already report this information to the State Board of Education, which Cameron said would satisfy the bill’s mandates. They wouldn’t need to adhere the same way as other state-funded entities, though.

“For them to provide a report would have been difficult,” Cameron said.

The measure was championed by Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman, who echoed Cameron and Vick in the assertion the bill will provide more certainty for budget-writers.

The measure now heads to the Idaho House.

Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com

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