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Eye On Boise archive for Jan. 1, 2010

FRIDAY, JAN. 22, 2010


House, Senate GOP members caucus

Both the House and Senate Republicans held closed-door caucuses today to talk numbers. The House GOP caucus, which lasted about half an hour, focused on the new revenue recommendation from the Joint Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee, according to Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke,…

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Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said she thinks lawmakers should consider cutting their own health benefits just as the state has cut health benefits for other part-time state employees; lawmakers get full-time benefits, but are considered part-time. (Betsy Russell)

Keough: 'We shouldn't shy away' 

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, says she thinks lawmakers should consider cutting their own health benefits just as the state has cut health coverage for other part-time state employees. "We ought to have that discussion - I don't think we should shy away from it," Keough…

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Don Weilmunster, president of the Idaho Parks Foundation, said he was relieved when Gov. Butch Otter decided not to eliminate the state parks department. The foundation helped coordinate the gift of Harriman State Park to the state in the 1960s; one of the gift's conditions was formation of a professional state parks department. (Betsy Russell)

Weilmunster: 'Not worried any more'

Don Weilmunster, president of the Idaho Parks Foundation, sat off to the side as Gov. Butch Otter and Parks Director Nancy Merrill announced their new plan for state parks - which won't include eliminating the state parks department. Weilmunster said he's relieved. The foundation was…

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Margie Gonzales, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, presents her budget to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Friday. Gov. Butch Otter is proposing phasing out state funding for the commission over the next four years. (Betsy Russell)

'The only voice this population has'

The Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs was established in 1987 by the Legislature "as an independent entity of state government," Margie Gonzales, executive director, told JFAC at the commission's budget hearing this morning. The commission's core functions are to advise the governor, Legislature and state…

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Former state Sen. Robbie Barrutia, interim director of the State Independent Living Council, talks about the council's accomplishments in a budget hearing Friday morning. The council is among several agencies Gov. Butch Otter has proposed for a four-year phaseout of state funding; the council also receives federal funds. (Betsy Russell)

Independent Living Council cites successes

Former State Sen. Robbie Barrutia, interim director of the State Independent Living Council, is now presenting the budget for that council, which, like the Human Rights Commission, has been proposed by Gov. Butch Otter for a four-year phase-out of state funding. "Idaho is one of…

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Labor: 'We can fit it in'

Chief Deputy Director of the Idaho Department of Labor John McAllister says the Department of Labor has been eyeing two funds, one that comes from penalty and interest payments from employment law violators and can be tapped by the state Board of Examiners, and another…

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Wayne Hammon, Gov. Butch Otter's budget director, talks about the governor's plans to phase out state funding over the next four years for a half-dozen state agencies, including the Idaho Human Rights Commission. (Betsy Russell)

Hearing on agencies facing funds phase-out...

There's a packed house at JFAC this morning, where budget hearings are scheduled for three agencies for which Gov. Butch Otter has proposed phasing out all state general funds over the next four years. Under questioning just now, Wayne Hammon, the governor's budget director, said,…

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THURSDAY, JAN. 21, 2010

'No place else to turn' 

This morning, JFAC wrapped up three days of hearings on Health & Welfare budgets, with more troubling news about soaring caseloads, crimped funds and Idahoans being pushed onto public assistance by the economic downturn. Russ Barron, administrator of the Welfare Division, said, "The number of…

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For the highly-qualified spouse... 

Here's a news item from the AP: The State Board of Education wants to undo a law forbidding spouses of Idaho university presidents from being hired at the schools. Mark Browning, an Ed Board spokesman, told the House Education Committee Thursday university presidents often come…

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Ward adds three more stops to 14-stop tour

Congressional candidate Vaughn Ward said today he's adding three more stops to his planned 14-stop "official announcement tour" next week, in McCall, Fruitland and Weiser, making it a 17-stop tour. Ward and state Rep. Raul Labrador are vying for the GOP nomination in the 1st…

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Guv plans parks announcement 

Gov. Butch Otter has scheduled a press conference for Friday at 11 a.m. with Nancy Merrill, director of the state Department of Parks & Recreation, for "an important announcement about Parks and Recreation management." Otter's budget proposal for next year included a "conceptual" proposal to…

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Roger Christensen, chairman of the state's Catastrophic Health Care Fund board, tells the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee about the fund's soaring bills to cover health crises for Idahoans who have nowhere else to turn, and aren't eligible for Medicaid or other assistance programs. (Betsy Russell)

CAT fund health bills soaring... 

Lawmakers are struggling with runaway costs in the state's Catastrophic Health Care Fund, thanks to the plunging economy that's thrown more Idahoans on the mercy of their county indigent programs when they have a health crisis. Counties pay up to $11,000 per case, and then…

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Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Prichard, spoke out in the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday morning in favor of legislation to do away with a tax return checkoff that allows taxpayers to direct $1 of their taxes to the political party of their choice. Shepherd said the state needs all the money in its general fund it can get; the bill passed the committee 16-1 and headed to the full House. (Betsy Russell)

Panel votes 16-1 to end party checkoff 

The House State Affairs Committee has voted 16-1 in favor of HB 379, the proposal from Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, to do away with the tax form check-off through which Idaho taxpayers can donate $1 to the political party of their choice, without paying any…

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About the numbers... 

So, just what does the revenue figure set by the Joint Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee yesterday signify? It's a recommendation to leadership and JFAC, but JFAC isn't bound by it. For many years, after taking testimony from economists, business leaders and more, the…

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WEDNESDAY, JAN. 20, 2010

A long and wild day...

It's been a long and wild day in the Statehouse. Here's a link to my full story on the outcome of today's stormy debate and votes in the Joint Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee, and here's a link to my full story on Rep.…

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'Trying to salvage what I could get'

Here's why Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, decided to second Sen. Russ Fulcher's motion on the state revenue estimate: "I could see where things were going, and they were going to an even more conservative number, and so I was trying to salvage what I…

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New revenue estimate would force more cuts

The successful motion, made by Sen. Russ Fulcher and seconded by Sen Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, sets fy 2010 revenue at 2.280 billion - which is $69 million below the governor's figure, and means, if the state budgets actually are set based on these figures,…

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Committee passes Fulcher motion

The vote was 13-5; Sen. Russ Fulcher's motion has passed. Voting yes were Reps. Kren, Lake, Roberts, Henderson, McGeachin, Bayer, Bedke, and Sens. Fulcher, Hill, Bair, Hammond, Geddes and Keough. Voting no were Reps. Sayler, Killen and LeFavour and Sens. Goedde and Bilyeu.

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More motions...

Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, has proposed a substitute motion at the average of committee members' projections, which is below the median projection. It's $2.3315 billion for fy 2010, and $2.3756 billion for fy 2011. Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, who seconded the motion, said, "To make…

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