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Eye On Boise

Groups cite government waste

Citizens Against Government Waste and the Idaho Freedom Foundation today unveiled a “2010 Idaho Pork Report,” pointing to ways the two groups said Idaho is wasting state and local taxpayer dollars and could make big savings. Among the suggestions: Cut health and pension benefits for state employees, though the state long has struggled with below-market salaries for state workers; eliminate Medicaid services that aren’t required by federal law; cut pay for the top-paid state employees; and stop funding programs ranging from support for the arts to the Commission on Hispanic Affairs to the Idaho Preferred program at the state Department of Agriculture. The report also calls for changing how Idaho teachers are paid, calling that “the porkiest plan of all” and contending that “Idaho dumps more than $756 million into teacher salaries.”

Wayne Hoffman, head of the foundation, also decried the fact that two state lawmakers who have missed all or part of two recent legislative sessions - one to care for his wife who was dying of cancer, the other for his own treatment for brain cancer - continued to receive state health coverage and pension benefits. The lawmakers both appointed substitutes to serve in their absence. Though changing that policy wouldn’t save any state money, Hoffman said it’s not “good for legislators to be gone for two legislative sessions and remain on the state payroll.”

Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes said he welcomed such a report, though he questioned some of the proposals. “I think there are additional opportunities for us to find some savings and efficiencies in state government - the low-hanging fruit has been picked,” he said. “If they can find us examples where we can be more efficient … sign me up.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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