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 actual amount of the bills is known. That saves an estimated $10 million in this year’s budget, though the bills still will be paid. They’ll just be paid out of the following year’s budget each year. “That way, instead of trying to guess what the costs will be halfway through the fiscal year, the Legislature would wait … and appropriate the actual amount,” explained legislative budget analyst Ray Houston. The move is similar to one the Legislature already made several years ago for agricultural pest control deficiency warrants and hazardous materials cleanup payments; it includes a policy change to make the new approach permanent.
Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, moved to approve the governor’s recommendation, Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously with no discussion. This is the one accounting change contained in the governor’s budget proposal that results in a major change in the numbers; other savings will be more difficult.