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Eye On Boise

‘The only voice this population has’

Margie Gonzales, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, presents her budget to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Friday. Gov. Butch Otter is proposing phasing out state funding for the commission over the next four years. (Betsy Russell)
Margie Gonzales, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, presents her budget to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Friday. Gov. Butch Otter is proposing phasing out state funding for the commission over the next four years. (Betsy Russell)

The Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs was established in 1987 by the Legislature "as an independent entity of state government," Margie Gonzales, executive director, told JFAC at the commission's budget hearing this morning. The commission's core functions are to advise the governor,  Legislature and state agencies of the "nature, priorities and problems of Hispanic people," and to serve as a liaison between the community and government to improve the quality of life of Idaho's Hispanics, who are the state's largest minority. Its priority areas are health care, education, housing and economic issues, and the commission also is involved in substance abuse prevention efforts. She noted that 9.9 percent of Idahoans are Hispanic, and the population is growing much faster than the state population as a whole.

Budget holdbacks on the commission this year mean furloughs for its three remaining employees, she said. "Further reduction in personnel will significantly hinder our ability to provide services to our constituency and impact our mission." The proposed four-year phaseout of the commission's state funding would seriously impact its ability to carry on, she said; the commission "plans to explore other means of funding." This year, the commission got $106,800 in state funding out of a total budget of $304,800; for next year, Otter's proposal is $68,200 in state funds. She said, "We are the only voice that this population has at the state level."



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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