Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Senate President Pro-Tem Robert Geddes sent a letter to Gov. Butch Otter on Dec. 7 saying they thought an additional across-the-board holdback was needed on all state agencies including public schools, as first reported today by Dan Popkey in the Idaho Statesman. In September, Otter called for sparing schools from his mid-year 4 percent budget cut by tapping into state reserve funds for $49.3 million. The two legislative leaders proposed making loans to school districts that can't handle additional cuts - but the districts would have to pay the money back to the state's reserves out of their budgets for next year. Geddes told Eye on Boise that Otter chose not to impose additional budget cuts then because of the timing, with the holidays looming and the Legislature set to convene in just weeks.
Now Otter has scheduled an announcement for Thursday morning on the state budget, just days before he'll unveil his proposed budget Monday to a joint session of the state Legislature. The governor's unusual move comes after weeks of speculation among state lawmakers about how the state should make up a $51 million budget hole that was left over after Otter cut 4 percent - $99 million - from the state budget in September, with some calling for further cuts even before the session starts. The state also has more than $200 million in various budget reserve funds, but lawmakers are concerned they'll need that money to balance next year's state budget, after this year's budget was balanced with the help of millions in one-time federal stimulus funds. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.