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Eye On Boise

Thu., March 5, 2009, 9:11 a.m.

The ‘Thelma and Louise scenario’

Defending his proposal to cut $62 million from schools next year rather than dip into the state’s $114 million public education stabilization fund, State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna told lawmakers this morning, “Let me give you the Thelma and Louise scenario – this is when you’re heading for a cliff, you stomp on the gas rather than pause and make adjustments.”

If Idaho were to spend all its education reserves and federal stimulus funds to avoid cuts in schools this year and next year, “In order to keep 2011 equal to 2010, we are heading towards a $150 million dollar cliff with nowhere to go,” Luna said, “and I think that’s very irresponsible. I cannot imagine a budget scenario where we would try to find $150 million to cut in one fiscal year. I do not recommend it, and I think this demonstrates how irresponsible it would be for education and for the students in education if we tried to craft a budget where we used everything at our disposal so that we do not cut education at all – and then it leaves us with nowhere to go 6 months from now when we build the 2011 budget.”

Luna’s proposal calls for $62 million in cuts in schools next year, and his scenario still shows a need to add $35 million in general funds to balance the school budget the following year, just to keep it from dropping. Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, said he’s even more pessimistic. “Thank you for your confidence in the future actions of this committee – I don’t share that confidence,” Wood said. “I think you’re looking through rose-colored glasses, even with only cutting the $62 million.”

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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.