The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee is setting budgets this morning, with several pieces of the state Department of Health & Welfare budget up first, for indirect support services, independent councils, licensing and certification and public health services. Three JFAC members, Sens. Dan Schmidt and Sheryl Nuxoll and Rep. Thyra Stevenson, worked together on the budgets, which are arousing little controversy. The licensing and certification budget includes a $193,000 pay boost for staffers who survey and inspect nursing homes and other facilities across the state; currently, turnover in those positions due to below-market pay has led to a backlog in inspections. Only $54,000 of that money will come from state general funds; the rest is covered by federal funds. “Facilities are not being inspected in a timely manner, and we run the risk of violating federal performance standards,” Stevenson told JFAC. The budget motion passed unanimously, 19-0. Those workers were given a one-time pay boost this year from salary savings in the agency; this budget item makes it ongoing.
Up later this morning are the budgets for the Commission on Aging, the Idaho Millennium Fund, the Commission for Libraries, and one that’s drawn more attention than all the others – the budget request to cover millions in unpaid federal e-rate funds for companies that contracted with the state to provide broadband service to Idaho high schools through the Idaho Education Network.