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JFAC debates, nixes Craig-Wyden replacement money

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, tried to add funding to replace 70 percent of lost Craig-Wyden funds to rural Idaho school districts to one of the motions for the public school budget – if Congress doesn’t reauthorize the payments. But her move fell short on a 3-17 vote – only Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, backed Keough’s motion.

The committee’s four Democrats backed a different motion that included both the Craig-Wyden replacement funds and a 1 percent increase in discretionary funds for school districts.

Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, spoke out against the Craig-Wyden replacement, saying the $3.5 million would help school districts but not counties, which also are losing money because of Congress’ failure to reauthorize the payment program for counties and school districts that formerly got forest receipt money. Plus, Eskridge said the move “takes away the responsibility of the federal government in terms of managing federal lands in a reasonable and prudent manner and puts the cost on the back of the Idaho taxpayers.” He also said he worried that a state replacement-funding move would sap support from U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s efforts to get funding reauthorized.

Keough countered that the money wouldn’t be paid out if the federal funds are reauthorized, and school districts have to set their budgets now by state law. Without any source to replace the funds, she said, they’ll be forced to ask local property taxpayers to approve tax increases. Broadsword said in Shoshone County, “They are talking about a four-day school week with the loss of the Craig-Wyden money.”

Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, also spoke out against the move, saying he thought the school budget stabilization fund should be reserved for state funding shortfalls, not federal ones.

Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, had made the recommendation to JFAC. Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, included it in her budget proposal for the operations portion of the school budget, in which she also included a 1 percent increase in discretionary funding to school districts. Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, proposed the successful motion, which didn’t fund either a discretionary increase or the Craig-Wyden funds, but like the other plans, did include funding for a $9.95 million textbook purchase program requested by schools Supt. Tom Luna and a $100,000 study of rural school needs. Bayer’s motion passed on a 15-5 vote, with Keough joining the panel’s four Democrats in opposing it.


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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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