Legislative budget writers have approved a “bare-bones” budget for Idaho’s four-year colleges and universities that cuts 14.7 percent from their state general-fund money for next year, but gives them a 5.8 percent cut in overall funding, thanks in part to plugging in some federal stimulus money that’s specifically for restoring funding cuts at colleges and universities. It was a bipartisan budget, proposed by Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, and Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, and approved unanimously. Said Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, “Our budgets haven’t been very healthy during this session.” She noted the 12 budget items that went unfunded, from a third-year law school program in Boise to nursing education expansion to biomedical research. “Unfortunately we’re not able to put the energy into those this year that we’d like to, but we certainly hope in the future we’ll do better,” Ringo said.
Bilyeu said, “I think it’s pretty amazing that we all came to agreement and have just one motion.” The single line item included in the budget for additional funding is $1.6 million for the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, all from federal stimulus money. The stimulus money for universities is split in half, with half going into next year’s budget, and the other half held for the following year.