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 1203 is a supplemental appropriation of $28,025,000 for Childcare Stabilization Block Grants to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the Idaho Department of Labor for fiscal year 2023.
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?
This legislation provides $28,025,000 for Childcare Stabilization Block Grants for the purpose of supporting and expanding childcare throughout the state. These grants are intended to be paid to childcare facilities for one-time expenses related to expanding their programs. However, these grants are actually being used by childcare facilities to cover ongoing expenses that include employee pay and operational costs. Additionally, these grants are intended to be used to subsidize tuition rates at these facilities to provide either free or low-cost childcare throughout the state, supported by the taxpayer.
Subsidizing the childcare industry is beyond the proper role of government. These funds are temporary appropriations that are being used for ongoing expenses. This creates a dependency on the government to support this private industry. It is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds.
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.)?
Earlier in the session, allegations were made against the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare for the misuse of funds appropriated under the Childcare Stabilization Block Grant Program. These funds were being used to administer programs for preschool-aged children when they were specifically appropriated for the purpose of dealing with children five years and older. This essentially created a federally-subsidized network of free or reduced universal preschool, substituting the role of the parents in child development and learning with a government program.
The legislature made a veiled attempt to correct the issue by passing the funds through the Department of Labor before sending them out to providers. This does not work to improve the vetting process or implement any provisions for how eligibility is determined to prevent wasting taxpayer dollars in the future.
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?
Senate Bill 1203 expands the role of the federal government in the childcare industry. All of the funds appropriated in this legislation come from the Federal Cooperative Welfare Fund.
Does this budget contain hidden fund transfers or supplemental expenditures that work to enact new policy or are not valid emergency expenditures? Conversely, are fund transfers only made to stabilization funds or are supplemental requests only made in the interest of resolving valid fiscal emergencies?
This legislation appropriates these funds in the 2023 fiscal year. This is in addition to $100.5 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act already dedicated to childcare infrastructure development. There is no fiscal emergency justifying the appropriation of these funds in the 2023 fiscal year. This is not an appropriate use of supplemental appropriation.