Half an hour after the Senate was supposed to be on the floor, JFAC has just voted 19-1 to endorse a budget target for 2010 of $2,507,900,000 - a figure nearly $50 million below previous estimates. That will mean more cuts; a scenario laid out for the committee by staff showed that figure could be reached in part by cutting schools more than the $62 million suggested by the state superintendent, but less than the $109 million suggested by the governor. It could mean roughly the equivalent of a 3 percent statewide personnel cut rather than 5 percent. The scenario didn't envision spending the $45 million in discretionary stimulus funds that the governor has targeted for transportation projects and water loans; instead, that money would be plugged in to help balance the state budget, including items the governor proposed funding, and to offset the personnel cuts.
Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said he applauds the governor for wanting to create jobs with that money through construction projects, but said he was surprised the governor wanted to spend the entire $45 million that way. "Those jobs are important, but we also need the existing jobs that we have," Cameron said. The spending target lawmakers set today largely differs from the governor's in how it would make use of federal stimulus funds; Otter said yesterday he wanted to bank half of the money that's coming for public schools against future economic downturns. The Legislature's new budget target is $42.3 million below the governor's latest adjusted revenue target for fiscal year 2010, and about $50 million below the figure JFAC set a month ago, before the stimulus bill passed. The sole "no" vote came from Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, who earlier said she wasn't ready to vote. "I feel so uneasy being asked to make a decision like that today with all this information being thrown at me," McGeachin said.