December 1, 2009 in Idaho

No shortage of ideas for state budget cost-cutting

Two-week old Web site has drawn 217 proposals
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A diversity of suggestions

The site, http://efficiency. idaho.gov/, was launched Nov. 13. It’s still accepting ideas. A sampling of those submitted:

Change state contracts that residents said aren’t a good deal for the state.

Eliminating the death penalty.

Executing everyone on death row to save money.

Decriminalizing and taxing marijuana.

Logging the timber on state rights of way.

Consolidating school bus stops.

Shutting down government offices one or more days a week.

Scrapping a proposed new dairy research center.

Doing away with the official governor’s residence, which is unoccupied; Otter lives at his ranch in Star.

BOISE – Gov. Butch Otter’s “efficiency” Web site has received 217 money-saving suggestions for state government so far from Idahoans, with the runaway winner being a cut in pay for the state’s top-paid officials.

“Start with a 5 percent decrease in all executive pay – you too,” wrote William Weiden, of Sandpoint. “Work your way down till you hit employees who make less than 35 grand a year.”

A Spokesman-Review analysis of the first two weeks worth of suggestions showed that the pay cut for the highest-paid was the most popular suggestion for coping with the state’s budget crisis, with more than 5 percent of respondents making that proposal.

Raising taxes and consolidating Idaho’s 113 school districts were other top choices, followed by merging or consolidating state agencies.

“We need to tax services,” wrote Donna Pottratz, of Hayden. “Women from Spokane come to the Coeur d’Alene Resort and get a $350 day at the spa, and pay not one dime of tax.”

Wrote Christy Swenson, of Rexburg: “I think (it) is silly to have multiple school districts in a small geographic area. I see no need for all the administrative personnel that this requires.”

The suggestions also included bringing back time off for good behavior for state prison inmates and shortening the state’s annual legislative sessions. Ruth Knepshield, of Post Falls, called for reducing the number of months in which studded tires are allowed on roads. “You will save millions$,” she wrote.

“We knew we were going to get a large response,” said Jon Hanian, Otter’s press secretary. “Everything is on the table.”

Otter is developing his budget proposal for next year, when the state is expected to face deep budget cuts because of falling tax revenues. Already this year, Otter has trimmed $99 million, but that filled in just part of a $151 million shortfall.

The governor has a final meeting with legislative leaders next week before he begins putting together his plan, which he’ll pitch to state lawmakers when they convene Jan. 11.

Several residents said the state should privatize services; others called for having prison inmates work to earn their keep.

Wrote Carol Mobley, of Idaho Falls: “Efficiency suggestion: Idaho Legislature/Governor need to make special effort in 2010 to work together and avoid session like last year’s, record length, counterproductive with all the arguments, and which added to taxpayer expense.”


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