Every day that the Idaho House passes a spending bill, Rep. Vito Barbieri says he’ll chime in to give the public a running count of the damages.
“Taxpayers will be delighted to know that we only spent $1,931,200 today for a total of $142,153,900,” Barbieri said during the announcement period at the close of Tuesday’s floor session.
That was the fourth time Barbieri offered his accounting, a practice he vows to continue through the end of the session.
“It’s a minor attempt at just highlighting the importance that what we do is appropriate billions of dollars,” said Barbieri, a fourth-year lawmaker from North Idaho.
Barbieri said he considered creating an Excel spreadsheet but decided to rely on older technology that he can stick to the ledge near his desk.
“I’m just using a Post-it, adding up what we spend today and adding that to yesterday’s total,” said Barbieri, 62, a retired attorney.
His effort has been lauded by some of the House’s conservatives, including the Legislature’s senior member, 32-year Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby.
“That’s our conscience,” said Wood, one of a handful of incumbent Republicans supporting Sen. Russ Fulcher’s challenge to GOP Gov. Butch Otter.
But the conscience got some recalibration after legislative leaders decided that it was time to correct Barbieri’s figures – which were exaggerated about eightfold.
On Tuesday, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, reminded colleagues and the public that the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee publishes a green sheet summarizing spending to date.
“We update it each time we spend general funds, and you can also go online and see that,” Bell said.
After adjournment, Bell sent Vice Chairman Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, to confer with Barbieri.
“Bless his heart,” Bell told the Statesman in explaining her decision to intervene. “At first I was stunned, then I was a little angry. Then I got to thinking he will be so totally embarrassed when he realizes how far off he is and his math teacher will be flipping in her grave.”
Bolz huddled with Barbieri to explain that the House had acted on nine supplemental appropriations for fiscal 2014 to date, totaling $18.9 million, more than half of it for unbudgeted firefighting costs.
But in several cases, Barbieri included money appropriated by the 2013 Legislature, adding $121.4 million to his count. His biggest error was adding $89 million from the Fish and Game budget authorized last year.
“I’m just spouting off numbers and am creating confusion,” Barbieri acknowledged, promising to clean up his arithmetic.
After Barbieri made the $89 million mistake, House Speaker Scott Bedke hinted at his displeasure with a dry observation, “Thank you for that salient announcement.”