Though the chief of the Idaho State Police is warning that understaffing at ISP is creating safety concerns for both officers and the public, JFAC approved a budget for ISP this morning that’s about a million dollars less than Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation. ISP requested 33 new positions next year, including 15 patrol officers and six detectives; it lost six detectives two years ago to budget cuts. Otter recommended 15 new positions, including six patrol officers and four detectives; JFAC voted for 13 new positions, including six patrol officers and two detectives. The budget bill also trims back the $3.9 million Otter had recommended for replacement items, including ballistic vests and vehicles, to $3.1 million, while leaving it up to ISP which items it prioritizes.
“We’ve been spending a little bit more than we have revenues for, and we’ve got to be able to make that budget balance at the end of the day,” said JFAC Vice-Chair Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, who crafted the budget bill. “We’ve been passing out some extras here.”
Bolz noted, “The House voted the other day to give $2.19 million to the counties,” by raising the rate the state pays counties for housing state inmates in local jails. “Where’s that money going to come from? We just keep getting all these surprises, and it’s just killing us.”
He noted that the budget bill still reflects a 5.8 percent increase in state general funds for ISP next year; Otter had recommended an 11.7 percent boost. Asked about JFAC’s decision yesterday to grant a more than half-million-dollar increase to agriculture education funding, compared to today’s ISP budget, Bolz said, “I support ag education from the standpoint that agriculture is one of the major contributors to the economy in the state, and I think it’s important that we continue along that line.” He noted that the motion he supported on that actually spent $140,000 less than the competing budget motion, which would have granted a uniform increase to all high school professional-technical education programs. Overall, he said, “I’m very concerned about revenue. When I see this drought hitting, I just hope it’s there.”