The Idaho Spending 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.
Bill Description: Senate Bill 1384 appropriates $133,476,500 and authorizes 788.41 full-time positions to the Division of Mental Health Services, Psychiatric Hospitalization, and Substance Abuse & Prevention under the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
This division of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare depends on the federal government to fund much of its operations. Of its $133.5 million budget, $53.4 million (40%) comes from the federal government. Much of this money goes to fund new programs and wish list projects requested by the agency. Notably, $10.4 million in ARPA funding will be used to develop a mental health crisis hotline and new community behavioral health clinics.
In addition to using federal dollars to fund new projects, the division is requesting three supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2022. These supplementals would cost $19.6 million to reconstruct storage sheds, maintenance buildings, and a new children’s psychiatric residential treatment facility. These are large expenditures charged to the General Fund that should have been included as dedicated funds in the fiscal year 2023 budget, rather than as supplemental appropriations.
Using General Fund and federal spending in this way is an exercise in irresponsibility. General Funds are collected through agency fees, excise taxes, sales taxes (including the grocery tax), and income taxes. Spending less from the General Fund could make room to lower taxes and allow constituents to keep more of their paycheck. It is irresponsible to use these dollars to fulfill a wish list. The additional spending of federal dollars comes with more federal oversight of state policy. Using ARPA dollars as the only funding source for new projects reduces the state’s jurisdiction over those programs, expanding federal overreach. In short, this budget is far from a responsible spending plan.
STAY CONNECTED with the latest news, research and opinions from the Gem State.