There was a surprise announcement at the end of this morning’s JFAC meeting: Both public hearings that had been scheduled for this year on the state budget have been canceled, largely at the urging of House leadership. JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, told the committee, “There comes times in life where we sometimes have to do things that we don’t particularly care to do, and this happens to be one of the times, for me at least.”
He said, “Two years ago, our committee embarked on a process by which we would start holding public hearings. And those public hearings were, in my judgment, very successful. We got to hear from the public as to the concerns about how we spent money, we got ot see how the changes that we were having to make would have an impact on their lives and on those programs, and frankly, this committee did a great job of listening and mitigating some of the issues that were naturally there. And those hearings proved to be very useful.”
“Unfortunately, and we had scheduled two of those hearings this session, the first one to be held on Feb. 1 and then I believe Feb. 8, unfortunately, we have been instructed and asked not to hold those hearings, so that we’re not out in front of some of the germane committees with some of the issues that they will be dealing with. So we will do as instructed.”
The past two years’ unprecedented JFAC public hearings drew hundreds of Idahoans from across the state to the Capitol Auditorium to comment on the state budget; the joint budget committee, until then, was the only committee in the Legislature that didn’t hold public hearings or take testimony from the public, though it makes among the weightiest decisions.
”We would certainly encourage the public to continue to communicate, and we’ll certainly continue to listen, and we would encourage the public to continue to communicate through the traditional means,” Cameron said, “and hopefully at some future stage, we’ll be able to hold public hearings again. So just be aware that your schedule will need to be adjusted, and we will not be holding those hearings on Feb. 1.”