So, just what does the revenue figure set by the Joint Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee yesterday signify? It's a recommendation to leadership and JFAC, but JFAC isn't bound by it. For many years, after taking testimony from economists, business leaders and more, the joint revenue committee accepted the governor's revenue figure. Last year, however, the committee set a figure $101 million below the governor's estimate. JFAC didn't initially accept that number for its budget-setting, but by the end of the process, that's about where it ended up - in an unusual move, due to the economic turmoil, the governor revised his revenue estimate downward mid-session, JFAC went with that new number but also opted to leave $50 million on the table, and the end result was a budget close to what the committee's revenue figure envisioned.
Here's a very interesting look at the revenue-estimate process and the role of the state's chief economist, Mike Ferguson, by Idaho Statesman reporter Brian Murphy. Also from today's Statesman, Dan Popkey had this look at the culture change the newly expanded Statehouse is bringing about. And from today's Lewiston Tribune, reporter Bill Spence looked at what people are saying in the new interactive forum on the governor's "Efficiency" Web site, and there's a surprise: The most popular suggestion in the forum, so far, is adding a 7-cent tax on plastic shopping bags; followed by school district consolidation and requiring legislators to pay higher premiums for health insurance like other part-time state employees - not exactly the proposals the Legislature's looking at so far this session. Click below to read his full report.
Lewiston Morning Tribune
January 21, 2010
By William Spence
Boise - A new tax on plastic shopping bags is the top-rated idea on Idaho's efficiency Web site.
The proposal is one of about 470 suggestions people have submitted to the site since it went live in November.
The Web site was initially created to gather input about how to make government more efficient. Now, a new "feedback forum" component allows people to vote on the ideas.
As of Wednesday, a proposal to add a 7-cent tax on plastic shopping bags had received 98 votes, almost four times as many as the next-closest proposal. School district consolidation had 25 votes; requiring legislators to pay higher premiums for health care insurance - the same as other part-time employees - received 20 votes.
Budget director Wayne Hammon said reports detailing the 470 ideas will be sent to the relevant legislative committees this week. It will then be up to lawmakers to decide whether they want to pursue the proposals.
Ideas that don't require legislative action are being being addressed as time permits, he said. Links on the Web site indicate which ideas have been accepted and which have been implemented.
The site has received almost 272,000 visitors since it was created. Ideas can be submitted in several categories, including revenue, general government, economic development, education, health and human services, natural resources and public safety. The Web address is www.efficiency.idaho.gov