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.
One very large line item in this budget should concern lawmakers: the Child Welfare Initiative. The line item in the fiscal note is described as providing nine months of funding at a cost of $8.6 million, which means that the initiative will require a $2.9 million supplemental next session.
To appropriate $8.6 million, to cover nine months of cost, when both the agency and the governor requested $11.5 million, for the full year, is not a good budgeting practice. This simply hides the true costs of the line item, as $8.6 million for 9 months would cost the same each month as $11.5 million for 12 months.
Both the governor and Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee shifted the state funding share from General Funds, which the agency requested, to dedicated funds. Using dedicated funds that were shifted from General Funds via a fund transfer helps to understate the overall increase in General Fund spending. On page 2-17 of the FY20 Legislative Budget Book, it is noted, “the governor recommends that the state share be paid from the Technology Infrastructure Stabilization Fund.” This fund was created by shifting General Fund dollars into this dedicated fund.
Finally, JFAC expressed concerns with project management as documented on page 2-17 of the FY20 Legislative Budget Book.