On a 15-5 vote, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has set a budget for Idaho Public Television that largely matches Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation, but makes a shift from one-time funding for half of the needed replacement items, to ongoing funding for $400,000 worth of maintenance and repair funding, in an effort to get out in front on replacing failing equipment. That means that money would become part of the agency’s base budget. Otter had recommended $800,000 in one-time funds for replacement items; the agency had requested $1.6 million.
The successful motion, crafted by Reps. Ringo, Eskridge and Stevenson and Sen. Lacey, is aimed at equipment-replacement problems the TV network has repeatedly faced in recent years, as aging equipment failed. Last year, Idaho Public TV was allocated $296,400 for replacement items; the year before, $189,600; and for the two years before that, zero.
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, noted that last year, service to Salmon failed until lawmakers approved replacement of needed equipment. “Rather than having to go back and always beg for replacement items,” she said, the new approach will allow for better planned maintenance. Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, said, “It’s pay me now or pay me later.” The budget motion passed on a 15-5 vote, after an alternative, proposed by Sen. Dan Johnson, failed 6-14; it would have allocated more money overall, but not added ongoing funds for maintenance and repairs. Overall, the budget for next year is a 20.5 percent increase in state funds, largely because of the equipment replacement and maintenance funding; it’s just a 1.7 percent increase in total funds.