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 Opportunity Scholarship Program dominates this education budget, eating up about 64 percent of the outlay.
Per the note below from the Legislative Budget Book, FY20, page 1-114
In FY 2019, the Legislature provided that twenty percent of the funds available for the scholarship may be used for awards to adult students who have earned at least twenty four credits towards a postsecondary degree or certificate and return to an eligible Idaho postsecondary educational institution to complete their degree [Section 33-4303(6), Idaho Code, and S1279 of 2019].
This bleed-off of funds for adults returning to college was a debatable goal, especially in light of the fact that this budget increases the Opportunity Scholarship line item from $13.5 million to $20.5 million.
The state does not have definitive data on the success of the students in terms of career goals and job performance, because the 2018 report focused on those gaining access to the scholarships.
A troubling trend with higher education has been the growth curve in tuition and fees. Idaho’s public colleges and universities have increased tuition and fees at more than 3 percent for several years. Providing students with taxpayer-funded scholarships reduces the incentives for these institutions to control costs.