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 1420 appropriates $339,792,900 and 2103.85 full-time positions to the Department of Corrections for fiscal year 2023.
Senate Bill 1420 would give the department of corrections a substantial increase in their budget and staff. This budget represents a $30.1 million, a 9.7% increase, from fiscal year 2022 and adds 42.0 (up 2.0% from FY 2022) new full-time positions to the department. This budget increase is largely due to the use of more than $10.5 million in funds from the ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Fund for wastewater management improvements and COVID operation costs. This raises the amount of money contributed by the federal government by 587.0% from the prior fiscal year.
The massive numbers detailed above only consider appropriations for fiscal year 2023. Senate Bill 1420 also includes more than $31.2 million in supplemental appropriations for the current fiscal year. This money will go to programs like a $12 million Hepatitis C Treatment Fund, a $1.8 million upgraded inmate banking system, and a $3.2 million new digital radio system. These funds come with reappropriation authority for the 2023 fiscal year, adding more funds to an already bloated budget. It is highly objectionable for this much funding to be appropriated to fulfill the Departments’ wish list. As much as 98.4% of the money for these supplemental appropriations would come from the General Fund. This means that revenues on sales, excise, and property taxes would support these line items, rather than remaining in the hands of Idaho residents.
Turning to the large staffing increase, most of the new employees will work as reentry specialists (20 FTP), Southern Idaho Correctional Institution staff (15 FTP), and vocational program staff (10 FTP). Since fiscal year 2018, the department has already added more than 74 new full-time positions. This increase for the 2023 fiscal year would simply continue this trend of large staff increases, increasing the overall size and permanency of ever expanding budgets.