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.
The budget for the Supreme Court, really the judicial branch, is the combined appropriation for overall court operations, the Guardian Ad Litem Program, and the Judicial Council.
Court operations have increased dramatically in recent years, with the headcount increasing from 334 Full-Time Positions in FY18 to a requested 360 positions in FY20, including positions in FY20 that could be deferred. In addition to another Ada County Judge and Court reporter position, which is driven by case-load in a growing state, this appropriation adds a Senior Financial Specialist, a Research and Evaluation Analyst, and a Court Education Specialist.
JFAC considered and rejected a substitute motion to use reversion dollars from unspent funds to cover the cost of the Senior Financial Specialist. The General Fund increase of 4.8 percent from prior year appears counter-balanced by a 12.6 percent reduction in Dedicated Funds. However, the reduction in dedicated funds results from the fact that FY19 was the fifth and final year of the court technology implementation plan and therefore that reduction in one-time funds should not mask the overall increase in funding.
While JFAC deserves credit for trimming many items from the governor’s request including even more FTP’s and programs, the addition of 7 FTP’s over the prior year original appropriation (2 added during FY19) is something that should be reconsidered. Three of those positions are in the analytical and educational realm.