Eye On Boise

Budget setting is clicking along

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee set the corrections budget on Tuesday morning, and plans to set budgets for Health & Welfare and Transportation in the next two days, to arrive at the biggest budget - public schools - by Friday. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee set the corrections budget on Tuesday morning, and plans to set budgets for Health & Welfare and Transportation in the next two days, to arrive at the biggest budget - public schools - by Friday. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

The joint budget committee this morning has set budgets for Vocational Rehabilitation, the Commission for the Blind, the Division of Veterans Services and the biggie, the Department of Correction. The corrections budget is based entirely on the assumption that there will be no growth in inmates in fiscal year 2010 - it assumes inmate numbers will hold at 7,333. The good news, legislative budget analyst Dick Burns told JFAC members, is that the current inmate level is 7,223. That's as of last Friday. It's dropped by almost 200 inmates over the last year, from 7,421 last March.

Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, who worked on hold-the-line budgets for all nine divisions within Corrections, said, "This whole budget is based on zero growth. ... If we start to see growth in this thing, you know what you're going to see in January." That would be supplemental appropriation requests to pay the additional costs. Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, noted that the approach is "a little bit risky," and asked how budget writers respond if inmate levels do rise. Joked JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, "We have an adopt-a-felon program and each of us sign up as we leave."  Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, noted that growth would mean corrections would spend more of their budget than anticipated by next January, when lawmakers are back in town, and budget writers would have to address that issue then.

Up next in the coming days are more big budgets - Health & Welfare,  Transportation, higher education and ISP. "By the time we get to Friday, the only thing we should have left is K-12," Bell said. There still would be final decisions remaining on spending of some stimulus funds. But, she said, "These budgets put government in place."




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