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Gop Does Batt Budget One Better Joint Finance Committee Rejects Modest Hikes

Legislative budgetwriters took Republican Gov. Phil Batt’s hold-the-line spending philosophy one step further Monday.

In fact, they rejected two of the new chief executive’s proposals for modest increases in the existing state budget and questioned others.

Combined with other reductions in Batt’s recommended emergency spending requests, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee managed to trim about $565,000 from the amount the new administration originally intended to spend augmenting current budgets.

And that cash savings may become crucial in finalizing an economic plan through mid-1996 when lawmakers tackle much more difficult budget areas like education support.

In dealing with a series of generally modest requests to augment existing budgets, budgetwriters denied Batt recommendation for extra cash to cover the unused vacation of retired Law Enforcement Director Richard Cade. They did the same with Batt’s proposal to equip the new prison work-release center that will open in Idaho Falls next August.

They claimed the Law Enforcement Department could just absorb the cost of Cade’s vacation, while the Corrections Department could just order up the equipment for the new work-release center and then pay for it out of the new budget next July.

The House-Senate panel also became embroiled in debate over just how much additional money is needed to cover inmate medical bills. And the panel wrangled over the amount necessary to secure confinement for juvenile delinquents that the juvenile system no longer has facilities to handle.

In both cases, members wanted more detailed information.

But possibly the most pointed target was a substantial increase in the residence allowance for Batt himself. The new governor recommended lawmakers approve an extra $3,000 a month for living expenses that was proposed by the Division of Financial Management.

That $36,000 a year would be on top of the $18,200 a year provided in various expense accounts for the governor. “I think $3,000 a month is too much money,” Republican House Appropriations Chairman Kathleen Gurnsey of Boise said. “I think somebody from my own party should say this rather than somebody else.”

Retired Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus already lived in Boise and had a house. So during his eight years in office, the allowance was $10,000. Andrus used it for maid service and some other ancillary expenses.

Batt, however, lives in Wilder and since his election has been renting a $1,350 townhouse in Boise to avoid the 80-mile daily round trip.