March 9, 2010 in Idaho

IPTV budget cut, but not as much as Otter wanted

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Eye on Boise

Find more Legislature developments on Betsy Russell’s blog, Eye on Boise.

BOISE - Idaho Public Television got its budget trimmed Tuesday, but the damage was far less than Gov. Butch Otter called for earlier - and Otter not only supported the plan, he’ll appear on IPTV tomorrow night to help with fundraising.

Otter, who opened this year’s legislative session calling for a four-year phaseout of all state funding for the statewide public television network, on Tuesday praised a budget set by lawmakers that instead gives IPTV a 16.2 percent cut in state funding next year, but an 8.3 percent overall cut. That’s comparable to cuts being taken by all state agencies in this year of budget crisis.

“I look forward to continuing our work together on this and other efforts to help ensure state agencies live within the people’s means,” Otter said in a statement.

He also noted that he’s co-sponsoring legislation to sharply increase a tax credit for donations to the network that brings 300,000 Idahoans programs like “Sesame Street” and “Idaho Reports.” “All that will contribute toward a secure and self-sustaining public television system for all of Idaho,” Otter said.

Otter is scheduled to make a fundraising appearance around 7:20 Wednesday night during the airing of the “Capitol of Light” documentary, about the history and renovation of Idaho’s historic state capitol.

Peter Morrill, general manager of IPTV, said the budget set by lawmakers won’t force any further layoffs at the public TV network, which laid off two employees this fall and has faced deep cuts in the past year. “Of course, we’re in the middle of fundraising right now,” Morrill noted; the station is in the midst of its annual 16-day on-air fundraising festival. “If everything stays where it’s at, we don’t foresee any further layoffs, but there will continue to be belt-tightening.”

That’s a far cry from the budget Otter originally proposed for IPTV for next year, which called for a 33.2 percent cut in state funding as the first step of a four-year phaseout. IPTV said that big a cut would have forced it to shut down its statewide broadcasting network, focusing instead on the largest urban areas where it gets the most donations; it also would have required the network to repay millions in federal grants for statewide digital broadcasting equipment.

Otter later said his call for phasing out state funding for IPTV and six other agencies was merely a “wake-up call” to spur savings.

The budget set by lawmakers on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Tuesday would give IPTV $1.39 million in state funds next year, down from $1.66 million this year. Part of that reduction was accomplished by reducing the network’s state funding, on a one-time basis, by the amount of a $97,200 federal grant it won last month.

The budget still needs approval from both houses, but budgets rarely are changed once they’re set by the joint committee.

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