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Eye On Boise

Thu., March 19, 2009, 4:11 p.m.

Wrestling with the cuts…

Members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee gather in a workshop on Thursday afternoon to wrestle with various ideas on how to draft budget bills to implement a proposed 5 percent reduction in personnel funding statewide. Such changes likely would be for one year only; budget bills expire at the end of the budget year. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
Members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee gather in a workshop on Thursday afternoon to wrestle with various ideas on how to draft budget bills to implement a proposed 5 percent reduction in personnel funding statewide. Such changes likely would be for one year only; budget bills expire at the end of the budget year. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

JFAC members are gathered in the 5th-floor library of the Capitol Annex to try to figure out how to fashion budget bills that implement the proposed 5 percent cut in personnel funds across the state budget. Among the options they're kicking around: Mandating a 2 percent cut in pay for everyone, and letting agencies manage the other 3 percent through keeping positions vacant, furloughing workers, or, if necessary, layoffs. "We don't want to lay off people - we want people to keep their jobs," Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, told the group. Added House Appropriations Chairwoman Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, "Everybody would have to do something." That approach couldn't apply to public schools, Cameron cautioned, because school districts, not the state, set pay levels for school employees.

Another option: Require a certain number of days of furlough for all agencies. However, Cameron warned, "You cannot furlough probably in corrections, may not be able to do it in state police, and I don't know how you do it with case workers in Health & Welfare. ... Furloughs work well with some agencies." The state faces some limitations because it must treat employees equally, committee members said; Gov. Butch Otter has called for applying the 5 percent cut only to the state's general fund, but various state agencies have a mix of funding sources. "I think most people would probably rather take less money themselves than see a co-worker laid off," said Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle.




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Eye On Boise

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