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: FY22 Appropriation, Department of Lands
The Department of Lands is an example of an agency that has grown steadily for years, and now perhaps it is time to hit the pause button. As the federal government has increasingly shirked its responsibilities for federal land management, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDOL) has stepped into the breach. Programs like the Good Neighbor Authority and the Shared Stewardship result in better forest management and more timber harvesting. The problem is that the department has massively increased the agency headcount. In FY12, it was authorized 259.47 full-time positions (FTP). Fast forward to the FY22, and the request is for 338.82 FTP, or a 31% increase in 10 years. This request includes converting 12 temporary positions to 10 FTP and adding a fire investigator.
In addition, there is a $20 million line item for the fire suppression fund. This fund is already projected to have an ending balance of $14.5 million before the fire season starts. Rather than transfer money before then, a conservative budgeting solution would be to determine what is needed after this summer’s fire season and address any deficiency with a supplemental appropriation next session. This is a standard practice in years past.