Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, also debated against HB 323, the public schools budget, saying he opposed the $21 million for merit bonuses and professional development, and instead thought that money should go to discretionary funding for school districts. “I just think we should properly fund the schools,” Patrick said. “The first place we’ve got to restore is in this discretionary funding. … Let’s just keep the lights on and put the money where it should be.”
Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, who cast one of five votes against the budget in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, said school districts are suffering financially. “They’re seeing large increases in … utility costs. … Their budgets are at the very, very bottom,” he said. He said with the current funding crunch, “Our districts need flexibility.” Mortimer said he believes the technology pilot projects and the locally directed teacher merit bonuses included in the budget overstep the bounds of the budget committee.
Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, said, “I don’t think this budget has enough money for discretionary. So if we pay the teachers, but we have to RIF (reduction in force, or lay off) some teachers in order to free up some money for discretionary, that doesn’t seem to make sense. … I’m a proponent of starting over on this bill.”