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Closed caucus discusses state budget

Idaho Republican senators went behind closed doors today for about an hour to discuss the state budget – specifically, a shortfall in the public school budget that’s anticipated this year because enrollment is up higher than anticipated.

Often, enrollment falls short of projections, leaving extra money in the school budget. But this year, Idaho has about 90 more classrooms full of kids than anticipated, and that will increase the state’s education expenses by about $11 million.

At the same time, tax revenues have been coming in to the state above projections. But Sen. Brad Little, R-Emmett, the Senate Republican caucus chairman, said with the education shortfall, “that right there about consumes it.”

New senators had lots of questions about the budget and how it works, Little said, and there also was discussion about the Medicaid budget and the lack of any budget plan for an eventual southern Idaho water settlement.

So why did all that discussion have to take place behind closed doors? “Because it was a caucus meeting,” Little said. He said newer members particularly may feel more comfortable asking “a dumb question” when the public’s not admitted.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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