Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said that a holdback for state spending will be announced Monday and that he’ll recommend a “no-growth” state budget for the next fiscal year, which starts in July.
Otter won’t offer say how much he wants to cut the current state budget this week. Some legislative leaders have called for a 2 percent holdback. The full details of the holdback and Otter’s “no growth” budget will come during his State of the State address Monday afternoon.
Otter’s holdbacks could run up to $49 million, according to Cathy Holland-Smith, the Legislature’s chief budget analyst. That would equal similar holdback Otter ordered in September. The total amount of cuts depends largely on revised economic projections that Otter’s office will also release Monday.
Otter said the next state budget can’t be bigger than the current one, even though economic conditions in Idaho may improve. “There is reason for cautious optimism,” Otter said. “But for now, this is the right thing to do.”
Watch the beginning of Otter's press conference announcing the holdback and budget proposals
Otter hinted that the holdbacks in spending in the current budget would apply to all state agencies, including public education and social services. Public schools take up nearly half the state budget, while state universities and colleges account for another 10 percent.
Otter said Idaho wouldn’t be the first state to cut education funding since the recession hit. "About 38 states had cut their public school budgets significantly, Otter said. “They’ve had to, because most other states are just like Idaho; that’s where half the money is.”
Cutting school funding before this summer could pose problems for districts with negotiated contracts with teachers for the current school year. Otter and Senate President Pro Temp Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, said school districts could borrow some of their budget for the next school year to finish the current year. Both leaders said money for that short-term borrowing could come from an education stabilization fund.
Idaho public schools are also set to lose funding that came from the federal stimulus package in the next fiscal budget. That money, roughly $145 million, could partly be offset if Idaho schools win competitive grants through the stimulus’ Race to the Top education reform program.
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna isn’t speaking about the changes to school funding until next week. “I first want the opportunity to review the details of the Governor’s final recommendation before making any comment,” Luna said.
Watch IdahoReporter’s interview with Luna on the next education budget.
Read Otter's official news release on his remarks.