The Twin Falls Times-News reports that a fight may be brewing over the startup of the Idaho Education Network, a $50 million statewide broadband network to serve local schools. Lawmakers unanimously approved the concept last year, but haven’t yet approved funding, but state Department of Administration Director Mike Gwartney has moved ahead with the plans, and is looking for a supplemental appropriation for $100,000 in state matching funds. “I frankly don’t know where the money’s going to come from,” Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, co-chairman of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, told Times-News reporter Jared Hopkins. “This is not the year to start new programs.” “It’s a good plan. It should be done,” echoed JFAC Co-Chairman Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, but “putting an additional amount of money into a budget is unrealistic.”
Here’s a passage from the Times-News story: “Undaunted, Gwartney on Friday said he has found a ‘legal way around’ the Legislature if it refuses the request. He said state law allows him to issue an executive order to enter a contract and accept bids if ‘it’s in the best interest of the state.’ ‘If I don’t get the supplemental, I will take that action,’ said Gwartney. Bell and Cameron both expressed surprise at Gwartney’s statement. Cameron said appropriations are subject to the Legislature as expressed by the Idaho Constitution. ‘He may think he’s above the Constitution but I assure you he’s not,’ Cameron said. ‘It would behoove him to carefully think things through before taking that action.’ ” You can read the full story here in the Times-News.