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.
During the 2017 legislative session, House Bill 230, which raised Department of Fish and Games fees, generally around 20 percent, passed the Legislature and was signed into law. Since the fee increases, the fish and game budget has grown considerably.
For Fiscal Year 2018, the actual expenditure by fish and game was $101.7 million. The request contained in this Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation bill is for $127.5 million, an increase of 25.4 percent above FY18. The increase from Fiscal Year 2019 appropriation to the FY20 request is 13.1 percent for all funds and the dedicated fund increase is 10.3 percent.
Some might argue that the state portion of this budget is entirely funded with dedicated funds but it is important to remember that those funds are provided by Idahoans through fishing and hunting licenses and related fees.
There are 15 discretionary spending line items in this budget (a sixteenth nets to zero) that drive the overall increase to 13.1 percent. It would be prudent to trim a few of these back.