According to a new report from the state Office of Performance Evaluations, new efforts to create tracking of data and outcomes from statewide substance abuse services in Idaho are on track and meeting recommendations made in two earlier performance evaluations. However, late yesterday, Gov. Butch Otter vetoed $16.8 million in funds for substance abuse treatment programs, slashing the very programs that would be monitored, saying there hasn’t yet been enough proof that they’re working. “The study shows that we’re on the right track,” Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said after the new report was presented to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee this morning. “We just simply thought we were all on the right track and knew that the resources were desperately needed.” Bell said there’s a “chicken and egg” dilemma. Said Rep. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, “We have the process in place (to track outcomes). If we pull the funding back, we’re not going to have any outcomes.”
Otter’s budget director, Wayne Hammon, said after the meeting that the governor would have preferred to trim back the funds rather than veto the entire amount, but had no choice because of the way the budget bill was structured. “I’ve heard the chicken and egg argument – it’s a very large egg,” Hammon said. “He understands we have to have some drug treatment money. … The governor just doesn’t believe it needs to be $14 million a year from the general fund.” His line-item veto late yesterday struck $14.4 million from next year’s budget for substance abuse treatment services, and $2.4 million from this year’s budget that was in a supplemental appropriation bill. Eighty percent of that money goes to provide drug treatment to people participating in drug courts or on probation or parole. “He fully understands the Legislature is going to have to revisit this,” Hammon said.