A bipartisan group of JFAC members tried to add in $110,400 to the Commission for Libraries budget for next year to fund a quarter of its requested increase to expand Internet access services in libraries across the state, but the move fell short on a 7-13 vote. The libraries had requested a $445,400 boost to the program next year, on top of its $900,000 in base funding; Gov. Butch Otter didn’t recommend any increased funding.
“I think what we have is a demonstrated need for increased capacity for the services provided,” said Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow. Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, said, “I saw first-hand the value of this … program, and it’s extremely valuable. … I would highly recommend supporting the additional $110,000.” JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said, “It is a good program.” But he didn’t join the group voting for the extra state general funds. Those supporting the motion were Sens. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, and Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello; and Reps. Thompson, Ringo, Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, and Phylis King, D-Boise, who made the motion.
The Commission for Libraries reports that 41 percent of Idaho’s rural population lacks broadband service at home, ranking Idaho 43rd among the 50 states and making libraries a critical source of Internet access for those residents. Among the big uses residents make of their local library Internet services are job-hunting and homework help.