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Eye On Boise

‘A pretty bare-bones budget’

Idaho Secretary of State presents
Idaho Secretary of State presents "a pretty bare-bones budget" for his office to legislative budget writers on Tuesday. He's proposing trimming costs further by not sending a pamphlet to voters about constitutional amendments that are on the ballot; Idaho had been scheduled to do that next fall for the first time. (Betsy Russell)

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is proposing a possible savings in his budget from the $370,000 that the state expects to spend next fall on voter notification for the general election. Ysursa said Idaho has a new law requiring a pamphlet to go to voters on constitutional amendments, something it hasn't done before; those also are published in legal ads. He's drafted legislation to lift that requirement, which would save $130,000. "Every little bit helps," Ysursa said. Typically the state would send a pamphlet to voters about any initiatives on the ballot, but at this point, none appear close to qualifying for the November ballot, he said.  "That's where I am on this pretty bare-bones budget," Ysursa told lawmakers. "We're looking, like you are, for every dime." A voter pamphlet on constitutional amendments, he said, is "something we've never done, and it's a nice thing to do when the money is good, but it's something I think we can replace with good Web access and things like that, which we do have."

Ysursa said his office has five vacancies, including three crucial senior staffers who have retired, but he's not filling the positions at this point to save money. Next year's budget won't cover filling them either, he said. "My budget doesn't amount to a rounding error" in the overall state budget, Ysursa said, "but it's very important to us."

Asked by Sen. Jeff Siddoway about possible costs related to a pending federal lawsuit by the Idaho Republican Party seeking to close primary elections, Ysursa said the next hearing scheduled in the case is in August or September. "We can't predict what's going to happen," he said, but if the federal court declares Idaho's primary election system unconstitutional, it'd likely defer to the Legislature to craft a new system. Costs would depend on how that's done, Ysursa said. "Different bills come with different price tags - it would be hard for me to speculate what that would be until we see it."

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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