Nearly 2,000 people traveled to Boise from all parts of the state in 2011 and 2012 to have their say on the state budget at big public hearings, a first for the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which until then had been the only committee in the Legislature that didn’t take public testimony, though it writes the entire state budget.
That ended last year, when two hearings were scheduled, but then legislative leaders canceled them, saying they didn’t want JFAC to get out ahead of the House and Senate education committees as they considered the results of voters’ rejection of the “Students Come First” school reform referenda.
Now, the public hearings are back. This year, the Health & Welfare and Education committees will host public hearings, and then JFAC will have one, too – on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. “I think it’s important,” said JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. Past hearings came during big budget cuts. Times are different now, but there’s still not enough state revenue to cover all the identified needs, Cameron said. “It’s important to help us prioritize the money that we have.”