The Idaho Spending Index serves to provide a fiscally conservative perspective on state budgeting while providing an unbiased measurement of how Idaho lawmakers apply these values to their voting behavior on appropriations bills. Each bill is analyzed within the context of the metrics below. They receive one (+1) point for each metric that is satisfied by freedom-focused policymaking and lose one (-1) point for each instance in which the inverse is true. The sum of these points composes the score for the bill.
Analyst: Niklas Kleinworth
Bill Description: Senate Bill 1179 appropriates $49,565,800 and 11.00 full-time positions to the Workforce Development Council for fiscal year 2024.
Does this budget enact powers and activities that extend beyond the proper role of government? Conversely, does this budget fulfill the proper role of government?
Senate Bill 1179 appropriates $15,004,600 in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for the Childcare Infrastructure Grants program. This program is designed to provide grants to businesses for the development of childcare facilities. These businesses include large employers (e.g., Micron, Tamarack Resorts, etc.) and existing childcare facilities. The legislature approved a $15 million supplemental appropriation to start this program in the 2022 fiscal year and the grants were distributed to projects throughout the 2023 fiscal year.
This funding subsidizes the childcare industry throughout the state of Idaho. Federal funds from ARPA are temporary as they are set to expire in 2026. Though these funds were initially marketed as dollars to be used for one-time startup expenses, these grants are also used to offset the cost for employers to provide childcare as an employment benefit. These are clearly ongoing costs that will likely lead to more government programs and more spending in the future.
Not only is this program wasteful, but it threatens the integrity of the Idaho family. This program is designed to keep parents in the workforce as others raise their children. Being that these are federal funds, there are inevitable strings attached to how these businesses must operate their childcare programs. These strings unnecessarily inject the federal government into the upbringing of Idaho children. This is far outside the scope of the proper role of the state and federal government.
Does this budget incur any wasteful spending among discretionary funds, including new line items? Conversely, does this budget contain any provisions that serve to reduce spending where possible (i.e. base reductions, debt reconciliation, etc.)?
Senate bill 1179 seeks to provide $12,200 for workforce training grants management personnel. These limited service positions were added to manage the more than $25 million in ARPA funds dedicated to the workforce training grant program. However, the agency reported that they are having difficulty filling these positions. The agency would like to use this line item to raise the entry level pay for these positions.
This spending is wasteful because it seeks to grow funding for temporary positions that have the sole purpose of managing large federal spending. Though one may argue that these positions are necessary to properly administer these federal funds, an equally valid argument can be made for why the state should not have accepted these funds in the first place. Now, the agency is seeking to grow their dependence on the federal government and the size of their agency to administer a new program.
Is the maintenance budget inappropriate for the needs of the state, the size of the agency, or the inflationary environment of the economy? Conversely, is the maintenance budget appropriate given the needs of the state and economic pressures?
This legislation sets the maintenance budget for the Workforce Development Council at $34,486,800, growing from the base by 202.3% over the last three years. This rate is much faster than the rate of inflation over the same period, potentially demonstrating substantial growth in the cost to maintain the agency.
Most of this new funding built into the base budget comes from the American Rescue Plan Act. Upon removing these funds from the maintenance budget, we see that operations within the agency have only grown the maintenance budget by 10.1% over the last three years. Though this rate is slower than the rate of inflation over the same period, we already discussed how the use of ARPA funds for ongoing programs will lead to more costs going forward. Thus, it is difficult to say how much the injection of these federal dollars have created real growth within the Workforce Development Council.
Does this budget perpetuate or expand state dependence on federal dollars, thereby violating principles of federalism? Conversely, does this budget actively reduce the amount of federal dollars used to balance this budget?
This legislation appropriates $40,966,800 in federal funding to support the programs within the Workforce Development Council. This constitutes approximately 83% of the agency's total budget. This legislation also provides for a line item that creates a one-to-one federal match for employee funding within the agency. With half of their employees dependent on federal funding in addition to the administration of many federally subsidized programs, this budget would grow the council's existing heavy dependence on Washington, DC.