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Senate Bill 1461 – Idaho Transportation Department, Supplementals FY24 and Appropriations FY25

Senate Bill 1461 – Idaho Transportation Department, Supplementals FY24 and Appropriations FY25

by
Niklas Kleinworth
April 2, 2024

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

Rating: -5

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1461 appropriates $1,370,226,200 and 1,645.00 full-time positions to the Idaho Transportation Department for fiscal year 2025.

This budget contains appropriations for the following divisions: Transportation Services, Motor Vehicles, Highway Operations, and Contract Construction & Right of Way Acquisition.

ANALYST NOTE: This legislation is a revised version of the failed budget featured in House Bill 723. The only change in Senate Bill 1461 compared to House Bill 723 is that the $2,583,200 in replacement items for the Transportation Services Division is $100 less. The rating for this budget remains unchanged.

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.)? 

There are several wasteful provisions across two divisions within the Idaho Transportation Department.

First, this legislation would appropriate another $15.5 million for deferred maintenance projects at ITD facilities. The Legislature appropriated a total of $34.5 million for such projects over the last two fiscal years. There is already $6.8 million included in the department’s base budget for this purpose.

The intent language governing this spending gives another reason for concern. The governor’s recommendation for this budget sought to spend $9.6 million to relocate the District 4 headquarters. The Legislature opted to designate $1 million of deferred maintenance funding to renovate the existing facility instead. HB 723 does not call for $1 million in renovation; instead, it directs the agency to spend a minimum of $1 million on this project. This is counter to the nature of a budget, which is supposed to provide an upper limit on spending, not a minimum. Requiring the agency to spend a minimum of $1 million bars any possibility that there will be cost savings.

Other instances of wastefulness can be found in the Division of Highway Operations. Senate Bill 1461 appropriates $5.7 million to subsidize public transportation systems and upgrade historic markers throughout the state. The $5 million set aside for public transit subsidies comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — also known as the CARES Act. This funding was intended to support COVID-19 relief. But with the pandemic long behind us, there is no need to subsidize public transportation beyond ordinary levels.

The additional $697,000 in federal funding is particularly wasteful, as there is no practical need to upgrade historic markers. It is frivolous spending on programs like these that are key drivers of government waste and the insurmountable national debt.

(-1)

Is the maintenance budget inappropriate for the needs of the state, the size of the agency, or the inflationary environment of the economy? Conversely, is the maintenance budget appropriate given the needs of the state and economic pressures?

This legislation confirms the maintenance budget for the Idaho Transportation Department at $777,495,800, growing it from the base by 29.9% in the last three years. This rate is faster than what would be prescribed by inflationary pressures and growth.

(-1)

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 1461 appropriates $454,808,700 in federal funding to support the programs and operations within the Idaho Transportation Department. This constitutes one-third of the department’s total appropriation for the 2025 fiscal year. 

Some of the most egregious examples of this federal dependency include the Divisions of Highway Operations and the Contract Construction & Right of Way Acquisition. The Division of Highway Operations relies on federal funding to support one in every five dollars spent. The Division of Contract Construction & Right of Way Acquisition receives two in every five dollars from federal sources. From this, it is clear that the Idaho Transportation Department is heavily dependent on federal funding to sustain Idaho’s transportation infrastructure.

(-1)

Does the budget grow government through the addition of new permanent FTPs or through funding unlegislated efforts to create new or expanded entitlement programs? Conversely, does this budget reduce the size of government staff and programs except where compelled by new legislation?

This legislation appropriates $4.9 million to add 53.00 full-time equivalent positions to the Division of Highway Operations. This would be the first year of a four year plan to expand the number of full time positions by 146. The agency cited the increasing number of maintenance projects as the justification for the need. There was no cost analysis provided to JFAC to demonstrate any savings from switching from contractors to in-house staff. This request provides for an ongoing, permanent increase in the size of government.

(-1)

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 contains several transfers within the Division of Contract Construction and Right of Way Acquisition. These transfers move funds out of the General Fund to dedicated funds to manage special projects. These include $206 million for road and bridge maintenance, $96 million for safety and capacity projects, and another $200 million for local bridge maintenance. Transferring these funds from the General Fund into separate accounts is concerning because they hide the true volume of spending in the General Fund. 

ITD may argue that this is necessary because projects get delayed and funding does not neatly fit into a fiscal year. However, requiring the agency to request appropriations to complete a project on an as-needed-basis allows for public and legislative scrutiny of project delays and cost increases. This practice of the governor — to move money into separate accounts — obscures the operation of government.

(-1)

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