Frustrated legislative budget writers siphoned another $1.2 million from a dwindling pool of general tax revenues on Tuesday to house juvenile delinquents outside the state’s already full long-term detention facilities.
Conservative Sen. Stan Hawkins, R-Ucon, pointed out that he and others had advocated building additional state detention facilities last year, only to be told the state just needed some temporary detention space to get it through a surge in delinquency.
“Now we’re going to spend almost the cost of a building to house juveniles out of state,” Hawkins complained to the Joint FinanceAppropriations Committee.
The cash, approved on a 14-3 vote, will underwrite 10 detention beds at facilities in Idaho and 32 outside the state for the next 4 months.
That space is needed because the Youth Services Center is already at its court-capped capacity of 110 and the temporary facility in Nampa is full at 20. The state has had no choice but to back up delinquents ordered to serve extended detention in regional holding facilities, eliminating space for juveniles to serve less-serious sentences.
The state already has juveniles housed in Missouri, Iowa and South Dakota.
The decision left lawmakers with only a $4.7 cushion to moderate Republican Gov. Phil Batt’s stern 1996 spending blueprint. And all but about $800,000 of that cash has already been tentatively earmarked to expand engineering education in Boise and to start up a new Juvenile Corrections Department.
Some budget writers have been talking about squeezing several hundred thousand more dollars out of the plan. They would do that by further reducing the money agencies are allotted to cover inflationary increases in operating costs like utility and rents.
Others have suggested simply shortchanging even more state building maintenance or building costs for the 500-bed prison expansion.
But they have been warned that those moves only create new - and sometimes bigger - problems in the future.
While there are hundreds of thousands of dollars being sought by lawmakers over Batt’s proposals for relatively minor government programs, the major legislative concern remains the state’s financial commitment to quality education.
The GOP legislative supermajority, however, essentially locked budget writers into Batt’s spending scheme by enacting his $40 million property tax reduction bill. It was officially delivered to Batt on Tuesday.