The Idaho Spending Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add some important context to lawmakers’ discussions as the spending bills are considered on the House and Senate floors. As we look at the budget, we consider the following issues:
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? Have budget-writers reviewed existing outlays 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 adding 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 truly objectionable or legitimate and worthy of support.
Bill description: Legislative account transfer
An initial review of the fiscal note in this appropriation raises alarms. This bill shows a 26% increase in the annual General Fund transfer to the legislative account - which funds legislative operations. This is the first increase since 2009. But when we review the change from 2009 to 2021 on an annualized basis, it is 1.9% per year in compound annual growth, which is much more modest than 26%.
The bill’s statement of purpose notes, “fund balances have been declining significantly over the past several years due to an increased number of interim committees, working groups, and a special session.”
Legislators should ask themselves if interim committees and working groups are a good use of General Fund dollars. For example, did the 2020 Idaho Content Standards Committee or the Education Working Group accomplish enough to justify their expenses? There were 15 interim committees, study committees and work groups that met in 2020. Were these necessary and effective? The question is a relevant one given the request for an increase in funding for the legislative account.