Eye On Boise

Agency budget-setting completed - which means session could end in two weeks...

The Idaho Legislature's joint budget committee sets budgets on Friday, wrapping up its agency budget-setting process and setting the stage for possible adjournment of this year's legislative session in two weeks. (Betsy Russell)
The Idaho Legislature's joint budget committee sets budgets on Friday, wrapping up its agency budget-setting process and setting the stage for possible adjournment of this year's legislative session in two weeks. (Betsy Russell)

With the Medicaid and Welfare Division budgets set, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has reached the end of its agency budget-setting schedule – a milestone. Typically, lawmakers can wrap up their legislative session as soon as two weeks after the end of agency budget-setting. JFAC’s work isn’t done, however. The joint committee has now started work on so-called “trailer bills” – bills that trail behind others that already are passing, to provide the funding called for in the fiscal notes on those bills.

Two are up today, and more will still be coming. The first one today is for SB 1329, regarding “time-sensitive emergencies” within the Emergency Medical Services program. This one actually doesn’t add any funding; it transfers it from one program to another, with no bottom-line impact. The second is larger: Following passage of HB 406, the state will move to take over primacy from the EPA for issuing wastewater permits under the federal Clean Water Act. The bill starts an eight-year phase-in of the takeover; next year, it will cost the state $300,000 in the DEQ budget, and require adding three employees. Eventually, the new program is expected to cost the state $2.5 million a year.

The primacy funding bill passed on a unanimous, 18-0 vote, though legislative budget analyst Ray Houston, asked by JFAC members if eventually some of the funding for the program might not come from fees or the federal government, said fees for municipalities are often a very political issue, and "Basically it does not look like the federal government would contribute any money." He said, "I think it's safe to say that over the next eight years, the state is likely to pick up the most part of this $2.5 million."

JFAC won't meet on Monday, but it will meet on Tuesday. Among items yet to be decided: Additional trailer bills; year-end transfers, including to state savings accounts; the request for $7.3 million for Idaho Education Network contractors in 2015 to replace missing federal e-rate funds; and recommendations from two interim committees on justice reinvestment and public defense.

 




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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