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Crunching the Numbers in Boise

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Crunching the Numbers in Boise

JFAC looks at the FY '13 budget from a Seat in the House

On Friday February 17 the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee voted to set the Fiscal Year 2013 budget based on the Joint Economic Outlook Committee’s forecast of 4.5 percent, an increase of about 115 million dollars over the revised Fiscal Year 2012 (our current year) revenue forecast. This is about $33 million below the number used in the Governor’s budget recommendations. JFAC also decided to adopt a 2 percent salary increase for all state employees that will be reflected in the budget recommendations prepared by the committee for all agencies. This decision was prompted by testimony received from agencies during the budget hearing process that many state employees were leaving the state for higher salaries offered by other employers. 

The revenue number agreed on by JFAC and the employee salary decision allowed the committee to begin setting appropriations on Monday of this last week. Although most of the committee’s budget work will involve setting appropriations for FY-13, there are cases where additional appropriations for agencies having unanticipated expenses for this Fiscal Year (FY-12) have to be addressed. This is accomplished by approving “supplemental” appropriations for these agencies. On Monday of this last week the committee recommended supplemental appropriations for the Department of Correction, Juvenile Corrections, Health and Welfare, Water Resources, Agriculture, Administration, the State Independent Living Council and the Board of Land Commissioners.

The FY-13 work began in earnest on Tuesday of this last week. At the time of writing this article, JFAC passed out of committee the following appropriation bills: the Department of Finance, the Division of Building Safety, the State Lottery, the Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the Endowment Fund Investment Board, the Office of Energy Resources, the Public Utilities Commission, and the Department of Environmental Quality.

The Department of Environmental Quality contained one budget item that is of particular interest to our area. Because of Idaho’s economic condition the past two plus years, funding for our Pend Oreille Lakes Commission (formally identified as the Lake Pend Oreille, Pend Oreille River, Priest Lake and Priest River Commission) was eliminated in the 2010 DEQ budget. Some temporary funding was provided by Avista Corporation to keep the Commission functioning in 2011, but there was no funding available for future years. 

In order to keep the Commission viable, a motion submitted by Senator Keough and supported by Senator Broadsword and I that provided for ongoing annual funding in the amount of $50,000 for the Pend Oreille Lakes Commission was approved by the Committee as a part of the DEQ budget. This appropriation has to receive the approval of the House, Senate and the Governor, but if approved will allow the Commission to continue its work in protecting the water quantity and water quality of these water resources in our area.

I have stated in previous articles that the JFAC budget recommendations have to be approved by both Houses of the legislature and the Governor, so even though JFAC has begun its budget work, its actions can and may be challenged. As an example, there is opposition by some legislators to the 2 percent pay raise that JFAC is including in agency appropriations. However, the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee passed House Concurrent Resolution 41 supporting a one-time, 2 percent raise for state employees based on performance. The legislation is going to General Orders, evidently to change from a one-time raise to an on-going “across the board” increase to employees. This change would conform to the JAFAC decision. JFAC will have to revisit its spending recommendations if both the House and Senate don’t support the JFAC salary increase 

There is also proposed legislation in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee providing for a decrease in Corporate and Individual income tax rates that could reduce revenues by as much as $35 million. This action, if approved by the legislature, would also impact the decisions that JFAC will be making relative to the FY 13 budget.

Proposed legislation that isn’t budget related, but of interest to Journal readers, is Senate Bill 1274 that adds a new section to Idaho Code that provides infraction penalties for texting while driving. Texting in the legislation means: “engaging in the review of, or manual preparation and transmission of, written communications via handheld wireless devices.” The bill does not include voice-operated or hands free devices that allow the driver to communicate without using the driver’s hands. The penalty for the infraction is not large but may assist in deterring texting while driving, which is becoming a serious safety problem. The bill is before the House Transportation Committee for review.

Another proposed bill I have received a large amount of opposition from constituents in our area is Senate Bill 1305. This legislation provides that in the case of livestock or domestic animals being molested by wolves, the owner of the livestock or domestic animal may use a motorized vehicle, including a powered parachute, helicopter or fixed wing aircraft, day or night to hunt and destroy the wolf. The legislation also allows the use of live bait, including domestic animals to trap the wolves.

In addition to being opposed by large numbers of the public, there is concern that if this legislation passes it could lead to the federal government taking away Idaho’s right to manage wolves because of the liberal conditions it allows in controlling wolves. The legislation is on the Senate’s third reading calendar but because of mounting opposition may not make it through the legislative process.

The legislature is about mid-way through the legislative session and we will see an increasing amount of proposed legislation for consideration. I will keep River Journal readers informed of legislative activity as we progress through the legislative session and as always please feel free to contact me with issues of concern or input on legislation being considered during this legislative session.

My mailing address in Boise is: P.O. Box 83720, Boise, Idaho 83720-0038 and my phone number is 1-800-626-0471. You can also reach me by e mail at: geskridge@house.idaho.gov. 

Thanks for reading! George

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

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Idaho Legislature, A Seat in the House, FY13 budget

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