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Eye On Boise

JFAC adopts revenue committee figure for 2011, will mean more cuts

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee debates revenue figures on which to base the state budget, both for this year and next year. The panel, along party lines, chose a figure far below the numbers Gov. Butch Otter used to set the budget he earlier submitted to lawmakers, which will mean further cuts. (Betsy Russell)
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee debates revenue figures on which to base the state budget, both for this year and next year. The panel, along party lines, chose a figure far below the numbers Gov. Butch Otter used to set the budget he earlier submitted to lawmakers, which will mean further cuts. (Betsy Russell)

JFAC has now voted along party lines to adopt the revenue figure for fiscal year 2011 proposed by the Joint Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee, $2.29 billion. That's $59 million under what Gov. Otter has proposed spending next year in the budget he submitted to lawmakers; the fiscal year 2010 figure the joint committee adopted just before this is $69 million below the governor's budget number. That means millions more in cuts will have to be made both this year and next.

"We're faced with volatility that's unprecedented," said Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise. Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, arguing for the unsuccessful substitute motion, said, "We do have an expert economist. ... He sees no reason to change his forecast. ... We all know what's needed to move Idaho's economy ahead - jobs and consumer confidence, and our actions today will set the tone." She submitted a "contingency plan" to the joint committee calling for raising additional revenue by hiring more tax auditors to collect uncollected taxes, tapping reserves and more.

But Sen. Dean Mortimer said, "We are in tough times. ... I think it's going to take every bit of our savings as well as maybe more to get us out of fy 2010, and I hope ... that that is not the case, but I believe that it is the case." Said Rep. George Eskridge, "We need to be fiscally responsible. We have people out there that are depending on us doing the right thing with the state budget, doing it realistically," rather than setting a higher budget and then having to make cuts later if the tax revenues don't show up. "It's only realistic and it's only prudent," Eskridge said. Said Sen. Shawn Keough, "We are off the charts in terms of history." She said, "Our government is funded by the Idaho taxpayers, and we can't extract from them what they do not have."

Bayer said the debate was not the place to talk about raising more revenue, and as for reserves and contingencies, he said, "those are all but gone." He said, "I do believe that realism is what's at play here, and the hard work of the committee, and the fact that we are trying to move forward in the most cautious, constructive way and the most responsible way in the budget process." Said Sen. Jeff Siddoway, "We're in more trouble today than we were a year ago or two years ago or three years ago. ... We're not out of this mess by a long shot, and we've got to deal with what we've got."



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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