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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

How budget cuts have hit DEQ…

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Director Toni Hardesty tells lawmakers on Tuesday that the budget request for DEQ for next year will be the lowest state funding level in a decade, though the agency has taken on additional duties. Layoffs, furloughs and cuts in services have resulted, she said. (Betsy Russell)
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Director Toni Hardesty tells lawmakers on Tuesday that the budget request for DEQ for next year will be the lowest state funding level in a decade, though the agency has taken on additional duties. Layoffs, furloughs and cuts in services have resulted, she said. (Betsy Russell)

The impacts of budget cuts on the state Department of Environmental Quality have included layoffs, furloughs, holding positions vacant, and cutting back or eliminating programs, Director Toni Hardesty told JFAC this morning. "It is just not possible to absorb these cuts without some level of reduction in services," Hardesty said. An example: The Beneficial Use Reconnaissance Program was cut off for one year, and now will be cut off for a second year, creating a gap in water quality monitoring data that helps Idaho meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. "Although regrettable, we believed it would have a manageable impact" to suspend the program for two years, Hardesty said. "However ... we will need to figure out an alternative solution if revenue doesn't increase." She said a "three-year gap in this critical water quality data" would be too much.

Hardesty noted that the DEQ budget, taken as a whole, appears to have had some increases over the past 10 years, but those are simply the result of shifting funds, including a legislative shift of department funding from the dedicated water pollution control account to general funds in 2001. Another boost reflects the federal funds that have flowed through DEQ for the Coeur d'Alene Basin cleanup, and federal stimulus dollars that have passed through DEQ to provide grants and loans to communities for drinking water improvements and diesel retrofits to improve air quality. "The general fund appropriation the governor is recommending and that I'm requesting today will actually be the smallest general fund appropriation the agency has had in a decade," Hardesty said.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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