Unanimous votes have set the budgets so far this morning for the Department of Fish & Game, the Office of Species Conservation, and the Soil Conservation Commission. Fish & Game, which gets no state general funds, saw an overall 2 percent budget increase; the agency is saving $200,000 by consolidating 53 part-time positions into 39 full-time positions. "You actually wind up with a savings," said Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover. That also allowed the agency to eliminate a request to replace eight vehicles. The Office of Species Conservation, under the proposed budget, would grow by four positions, but they're limited-service, federally-funded positions that are being transferred from the Soil Conservation Commission budget. Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, said the move "reduces a layer of state government," because the money came through Species Conservation, then went to Soil Conservation for those positions.
The Soil Conservation budget reflects a 44.3 percent budget reduction and seven fewer positions; that includes the four being transferred, plus three more that now are vacant, "so it won't mean laying any people off," Brackett said. Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said, "The budget is, I think, about as good as we could do." Said Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, "These are people who are used to doing more with less."