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Eye On Boise archive for Jan. 1, 2009

MONDAY, JAN. 19, 2009

Patti Tobias, Idaho Supreme Court administrator, tells lawmakers that court caseloads are up in Idaho's down economy, 1/19/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Bad economy means higher court caseloads

As Idaho's judicial branch has its budget hearing before lawmakers this morning, Idaho Supreme Court Administrator Patti Tobias told JFAC, "Caseloads are increasing during these turbulent times." District courts in Idaho have sen an unprecedented 17 percent increase in caseload in the past year, she...

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Bogus Basin ski area basks under sunny skies, while an inversion socks in the Treasure Valley below, where lawmakers are meeting. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

There's a light...

While Boise has shivered for the past week under an icy fog, the mountains just above town, invisible from below, obscured by fog, have been basking under warm sunshine, clear skies and clean, fresh air. Up at Bogus Basin ski area over the weekend, it...

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SATURDAY, JAN. 17, 2009

One week in, and already all this...

Here's a link to my full story in today's Spokesman-Review about Friday's developments at the Legislature, including the call for all state agencies to stop spending money except for operating costs “until further notice.” It’s not yet clear what will be affected, but possible targets...

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Melinda Smyser appointed to Senate

Gov. Butch otter has appointed Melinda Smyser to Brad Little's former Senate seat. Otter chose Smyser, a GOP activist who was the top choice of a district party committee that submitted three names to the governor, over Caldwell farmer Sid Freeman and Rep. Carlos Bilbao,...

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FRIDAY, JAN. 16, 2009

'The new guy's an over-achiever'

New U.S. Sen. Jim Risch got a prominent mention in the Roll Call newspaper's "Heard on the Hill" column this week, headed "A for Effort," which noted, "Looks like the new guy's an over-achiever. HOH spies have noticed Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, spending a lot...

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Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls. 1/16/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Was that why all the sirens?

Phone system glitches are nothing new in the state Senate, but the latest one has a new twist: Lawmakers are accidentally dialing 911. "Folks, it's happening a lot," Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, informed the Senate today. The problem is that lawmakers are...

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Cameron: Apologies accepted

During the budget hearing this morning for the legislative branch, JFAC heard from Legislative Services Director Jeff Youtz about the budget for the Legislature, including the dispute with the governor over lawmakers' new laptop computers (for which Otter line-item vetoed funding last year, but lawmakers...

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Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa addresses legislative budget writers, 1/16/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Lawmakers troll for more savings

Legislative budget writers grilled several state officials this morning to see if they can find more ways to cut their budgets. State Treasurer Ron Crane, state Controller Donna Jones and Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said they're already trimming back, and Crane and Ysursa noted...

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Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, co-chairs the Idaho Legislature's joint budget committee. 1/16/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Agencies told to halt spending 

The co-chair of the Legislature’s joint budget committee just called on all state agencies to halt spending of any one-time money or capital outlay money they have in their budgets this year “until further notice.” Said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, “We look forward to working...

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THURSDAY, JAN. 15, 2009

Lawmakers say guv 'over-optimistic'

Idaho’s state budget challenges got tougher today, as lawmakers on a special joint committee rejected the governor’s estimate of tax revenue for next year and instead picked a figure $101 million lower. If that stands, lawmakers would have to cut another $101 million more beyond...

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Lawmakers trim revenue estimate

The joint committee charged with determining the revenue figure on which Idaho's state budget for next year will be set has opted for a figure $100 million below the governor's figure - which means lawmakers will either have to cut much deeper into next year's...

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Faces behind the issue

A theme sounded by those at the rally today against cuts in services for the disabled, and also by lawmakers and Gov. Butch Otter, is that the cuts the state is making in its budget affect real people, and that's what makes them so difficult....

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Hundreds of disabled Idahoans, family members and advocates gathered at the Capitol Annex to protest budget cuts in services for the disabled, 1/15/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Disabled rally against budget cuts

Hundreds of disabled people, family members and advocates marched to the Capitol Annex this afternoon and rallied outside to oppose cuts in state services to the disabled. "I'm just like everybody else - I want to have my own apartment, I want to work, I...

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They picked up more than drunks

When Idaho law enforcement agencies put on a big push to target impaired drivers over the Thanksgiving holiday period, they actually came up with more other offenders. ITD reports that the Nov. 21-30 mobilization, funded by a federal grant, resulted in 314 DUI arrests over...

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Unanimous vote to make holdbacks permanent

Some of the 'aye' votes sounded reluctant, but JFAC has voted unanimously to make the governor's 4 percent holdbacks in this year's state budget permanent. "We find ourselves in this situation," said Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. "I guess we can only hope and...

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A little more left in school fund

The Legislature's budget committee is in the process of voting on a series of motions to make the governor's 4 percent holdbacks permanent. So far, they've made one alteration - the governor wanted to account for a 4 percent holdback in public schools, then make...

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Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, center, backs an accounting change that saves the state $10 million in this year's budget. Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, is on the right, and Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, on the left. The change, a recommendation from Gov. Butch Otter, won unanimous support on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

They just saved $10 million

In perhaps the easiest savings lawmakers will make in this year's budget, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee just voted unanimously in favor of the governor's recommendation to put off paying for fire suppression costs until after the end of the fiscal year each year, when the...

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WEDNESDAY, JAN. 14, 2009

'Something we shouldn't have done'

Here's a link to a video excerpt from the Idaho Public TV interview with Gov. Butch Otter in which he discusses the flap over legislative computer funding. In it, the governor says he opposed the purchase of new laptop computers for lawmakers because he wanted...

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Guv apologizes to JFAC co-chairs

In an interview with Idaho Public Television's Thanh Tan, taped this morning for Friday night's "Idaho Reports," Gov. Butch Otter apologized to the co-chairs of JFAC and other lawmakers for the tone of the threat he had his budget director deliver yesterday, as the governor...

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'One might call it a sleight of hand'

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, noted that there's in essence a double cut in the way the holdback was calculated for public schools. That's because in addition to the 4 percent holdback, Gov. Butch Otter also cut the $3.9 million for the math initiative. However, both...

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In the 'silver lining' department...

A few state agencies reported cost savings that helped them comply with the 4 percent mid-year budget holdback. Among them: The state treasurer expects to save $51,300 on bank fees for deposits and other transactions, because less state revenue this year meant fewer transactions. And...

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Lots of furloughs

At lots of state agencies, employees are being asked to take time off without pay to cope with a mid-year 4 percent budget holdback. Health & Welfare has an agency-wide three-day furlough, as does the Department of Juvenile Corrections, JFAC was told this morning. The...

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Members of the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee review the impact of 4 percent budget holdbacks on state agencies, 1/14/09  (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Colleges, cops hit hard by holdbacks

Lawmakers on JFAC this morning are hearing presentations on how the 4 percent holdbacks have affected various state agencies. Among the news: Idaho State Police is holding seven trooper positions vacant for two months to make up $42,000 in personnel holdbacks in patrol. That's 5...

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