The Idaho Spending Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add important context to lawmakers’ discussions as the spending bills are considered on the House and Senate floors. 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 1389 appropriates $30,682,300 and 226.00 full time positions to the Office of the Attorney General for fiscal year 2023.
Senate Bill 1389 increases the Office of the Attorney General’s budget by more than 11% from what was appropriated last year and seeks to expand its workforce by six full-time positions.
Increasing its staff and double-dipping wage increases is proving to be a spendy endeavor. Over the last five years, the office expanded its staff by 14 full-time positions. In addition to seeking another staff increase for fiscal year 2023, the agency hopes to combine funds from the statewide change in employee compensation and an additional salary increase to give its attorneys an 11% raise. What makes this additional salary increase unreasonable is that attorneys were already set to receive a nearly 7% bump in pay for fiscal year 2023 through the statewide change in employee compensation alone.
A side effect of the wage increase is that the Office of the State Appellate Public Defender must provide a similar increase for their attorneys to maintain parity with the Office of the Attorney General. This is a requirement set in Idaho Code to ensure public defenders and prosecutors have similar knowledge, skills, and resources. Thus, this proposal has effects that reach beyond the agency itself.
Increasing the size of this agency’s budget is only part of the problem. Another component is that it increasingly depends on federal dollars. Notably, federal contributions to the office rose by more than 36% since fiscal year 2022. As much as $209,200 of this money will come from funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Overall, this budget is concerning due to its expansion of staffing, funding, and federal dependency.
STAY CONNECTED with the latest news, research and opinions from the Gem State.