Idaho is discovering the hidden costs of budget cuts, as major cutbacks in the state budget threaten to cost more than they’ll save. One example: The $1.6 million the state would save by cutting off funding for Idaho Public Television may be less than the amount IPTV has to repay the federal government for portions of $4 million in grants. The grants paid for equipment to convert the statewide TV network to digital signals; if the equipment isn’t used for its intended purpose for 10 years, repayments are due. Another: Gov. Butch Otter’s initial proposal to eliminate the state Department of Parks and Recreation and sell its headquarters building sought to save $10 million, but could’ve cost the state the landmark Harriman State Park, likely worth $50 million. That’s because the Harriman family’s gift of the park to the state was contingent on Idaho setting up a professional parks department. On Friday, Otter dropped the plan in favor of a more modest proposal to cut costs at state parks and lay off 25 people.
You can read my Sunday story here at spokesman.com, and my sidebar here about how the proposed four-year phaseout of state funding for IPTV would mean steep first-year cuts. “We would actually look at implementing many of these changes on the front end, because of the factor of having to go through and pay back federal grants,” said IPTV General Manager Peter Morrill.