The Idaho Budget 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.

Analysis:

The Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired is organized under Idaho Code 67-5401 to “relieve blind persons from the distress of poverty” and to “encourage and assist blind persons in their efforts to become socially and economically independent and to render themselves more self-supporting” and “to enlarge the opportunities of blind persons to obtain education, vocational training and employment.” Since the commission’s creation in the 1960s, non-government access to programs for the blind has increased, negating some of the functions offered by the agency. However, the agency continues to offer workforce training and vocational rehabilitation programs that are statutorily segregated and duplicative of offerings by other state agencies, including the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and state Department of Labor. (See also Idaho Freedom Foundation Report on Government Waste, 2010).

This commission’s General Fund maintenance appropriation is 3.2 percent over prior year and 3.7 percent over base. The line items in the budget are related only to information technology issues. Overall, this represents a 3.9 percent General Fund increase over the prior year.

Finally, this commission gets 63 percent of funding from the federal government and would likely not operate without federal funding or require a significant increase in state funds. This appropriation hikes federal funding by 1.9 percent.

But because the agency provides services offered by the private sector and because the state government should, at minimum, consolidate the commission’s programs into other agencies for greater savings, the Legislature should reconsider this appropriation.

Final score: (-1)