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Eye On Boise

Even the first agency budgets, with no general funds, aren’t turning out to be easy

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee begins setting budgets for state agencies for fiscal year 2011 on Monday morning. (Betsy Russell)
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee begins setting budgets for state agencies for fiscal year 2011 on Monday morning. (Betsy Russell)

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has started setting agency budgets for 2011 this morning,  starting with agencies that get no general funds, just dedicated or federal funds. Already, the committee has gotten hung up on a proposal from Sen Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, and Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, to restore $191,500 in personnel cuts to the Department of Finance that were cut this year. It's all dedicated funds that come from fees, and Mortimer and Jaquet argued it's needed to adequately regulate banks and financial institutions. Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, offered a substitute motion to cut the money anyway, noting that unspent fee money at the department gets "swept" into the general fund at the end of the year, so the move could eventually cost money to the general fund.

Eskridge's motion failed on a close, 9-11 vote; the original motion from Mortimer and Jaquet then passed, 13-7. Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, JFAC co-chair, said she could make the same arguments that Mortimer and Jaquet made for any of the budgets that are coming; Jaquet said restoring the cuts will ease furloughs for department employees, which cut into their regulatory work. Said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, the other JFAC co-chair, "This is the first day of our first budget-setting, and we have to maintain some level of control. ... We've got some tough decisions coming down the road." On the other hand, he noted, adequate regulation of banks could save the general fund long-term by preventing banks from failing. Cameron ended up opposing Eskridge's substitute motion, casting the tie-breaking vote.



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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