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: Health and Welfare department: mental health services, psychiatric hospitalization and substance abuse treatment and prevention FY22 appropriation
This is one of several bills within the Department of Health and Welfare budget that encapsulates the fiscal conundrum that Idaho is facing. Had this budget request for a 25% overall increase from the prior year appropriation consisted of general fund dollars, it would not have made it out of the Joint Finance Appropriation Committee. However, this appropriation increase is entirely driven by federal dollars, which are up 115% from the prior year. And most of those funds are tied to COVID money. The notion that we should take this money because these are federal dollars and saddle our kids and grandkids with debt is antithetical to a conservative approach to budgeting.