Members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee are beginning a week-long look into what’s in the federal stimulus bill for Idaho. To start, JFAC Co-Chairwoman Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, told legislative budget director Cathy Holland-Smith, “I know how hard you’ve worked on this, to help us navigate this wild river. We seem to feel like we’re in a raft, and there’s no getting out.” Holland-Smith responded, “It’s been a real learning experience. … Our goal here this week is to lay a foundation so that there’s a proper context for the recommendations,” when Gov. Butch Otter lays his own recommendations before lawmakers in the coming weeks.
JFAC will hear about impacts on education and economic development tomorrow. They’ll take a break Wednesday and go back to reports from germane committees on state budget recommendations. Then, Thursday “will be a particularly long morning,” Holland-Smith said. “The impacts to health and human services are particularly complex.” Changes in the Medicaid formula will be covered, along with natural resources, energy and more. On Friday, the focus will be the impacts of the stimulus on transportation. “When it comes to Idaho, we’ve been having this long conversation for several years about how to fund the infrastructure,” Holland-Smith said. She’s had lawmakers come to her, hoping to fund new programs with the stimulus money. But, she said, “What I’ve found so far is there are some real limitations on the use of this funding. … It is pretty restrictive.”
Idaho stands to receive $201.7 million for education budget stabilization, $44.9 million for general-purpose budget stabilization, $181.9 million for highways and bridges, $2.6 million for Head Start, $3.2 million for educational technology, $5 million for homelessness prevention, and $2.1 million for dislocated workers, among a long list of specific purposes for which the state will receive funds. The total: $1.0234 billion.