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Eye On Boise

Moving ‘Students Come First’ money out of school budget would require 2/3 vote of JFAC

As the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee went over its complicated rules this morning, Legislative Budget Director Cathy Holland-Smith highlighted JFAC Rule 13 – To reopen a budget, either to put more money in – a supplemental appropriation – or to take money out – a negative supplemental – requires a two-thirds vote of the joint committee.

That matters for the next issue the joint committee is now reviewing: The fiscal impact of the failure of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 on this year’s public school budget. Here’s why: The various changes in law caused by voter rejection of the three propositions leave $30.6 million unallocated in this year’s public school budget. Lawmakers have a number of options, including no action, which would cause the money to flow at the end of the year into the Public Education Stabilization Fund; redirecting those funds within the public school budget, which would take a simple majority vote of JFAC; or redirecting those funds to some other purposes outside the public school budget. Because of Rule 13, that would require a 2/3 vote of the 20-member joint committee.

The reason redistributions within the budget wouldn't require reopening the budget and a two-thirds vote is because the public school budget has what’s called “lump-sum authority” written into it, permitting movement of funds within the total. The large budget always has that authority, explains JFAC budget analyst Paul Headlee, “because it’s built on so many estimates.”

The question of what happens to the now-unallocated money is a major one. “It’s the No. 1 question I had all year – what happens to the money,” Headlee said.“The answer is really in the hands of the Legislature.”

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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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