Why is it that the governor’s scholarship endowment bill, HB 217, has been pulled back to committee? House Education Committee Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, said he pulled the $38 million scholarship bill back to his committee yesterday because of concerns that the amount may need to be adjusted. “Thirty-eight million is a lot of money – I’m not sure if JFAC has all of that left at this point,” Nonini said.
In fact, just today, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee finished setting all the general fund budgets, and their appropriations add up to $2.81 billion, $29.1 million below Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation – without the scholarships being funded yet.
There are other factors that count in the budget picture, too. Lawmakers have funded $7 million in health insurance costs for state employees that Otter hadn’t included in his plan. They’ve spent millions less on building projects and on higher education research grants than he proposed, but haven’t yet funded a grocery tax credit increase, for which Otter set aside $22 million; grocery credit legislation that awaits amendments in the Senate would cost $47.5 million. Other bills still pending in the Legislature also could have budget impacts.
Nonini said he hopes to work with JFAC to make sure the scholarship legislation matches the available funds.