The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee is diving right into its agency budget hearings this morning, with six relatively small agencies on the docket. First up is the Legislative Services Office. LSO Director Jeff Youtz told JFAC that Idaho’s legislative staffing is far below the national average. “It’s 0.8, less than one person per legislator support in Idaho,” he said. The national mean is close to 3.
The legislative budget office has the same staffing level it had 25 years ago, Youtz said. That’s been possible partly because of technology, he said, but added, “The people keep getting better and better, and they’ve been rising to the occasion.” The largest division, the audit staff, has 28 people; 25 years ago it had 30. “We’re making things fit and addressing responsibilities without growing staff,” Youtz said. In some cases, he said, he’s cut positions in order to maintain pay levels for staffers. Statewide, Idaho state employee pay lags 18.9 percent below market rates, but Youtz said as a result of his efforts, that’s not the case at LSO.
The budget request for LSO for next year is for a maintenance-level budget; due to benefit cost increases, it shows a slight increase of just over 1 percent. The budget totals $4.4 million in state general funds, $5.9 million total, which includes dedicated funds in the form of audit billings from other agencies. LSO has 64 full-time positions, plus seven seasonal positions for the legislative session.
Also up for hearings today: The governor’s Division of Financial Management; the Executive Office of the Governor; PERSI; the Endowment Fund Investment Board; and the Commission on the Arts.