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Eye On Boise

JFAC public hearing ends early, after testimony on ed funding, tax cuts, mental health services, pre-K

This morning’s public hearing on the state budget has wrapped up after just half an hour; seven people offered testimony. “We thank you, for those of you who came, and we thank you for those who are listening at home,” said JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. “Please feel free to send your written testimony to us. … Committee members, you can go work on budgets.”

Among those testifying this morning:

Donna Yule, head of the Idaho Public Employees Association, told the budget writers that state employee pay is not keeping up with market demands. “We encourage you to look at that,” she said. “But we’re also concerned with what we see as chronic underfunding of our state government. And this budget does allow for another tax break for corporations and for wealthier people, so we encourage you not to fund more tax breaks until we restore the funding that we need for transportation, for education, for state employees and for all those other things.”

Susan Perkins of the Idaho Counseling Association urged more funding for mental health treatment including prevention. “It’s sad to think that people have to be in prison or in jail to receive the bulk of the mental health services that are available in our state,” she said. “When we … increase funding to preventive areas, we end up saving a tremendous amount of money.”

Karen Echeverria, executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association, said her group has three major budget priorities: Restoration of operational funds for school districts; “significantly” increasing teacher salaries; and providing for broadband connectivity for schools in fiscal year 2016. “Our request is you ensure that schools are not harmed by contract problems they did not create, and that the public school budget does not suffer,” she said.

Sylvia Chariton of the American Association of University Women urged state funding for preschool. “Idaho’s lack of a state-run program for pre-kindergarten puts Idaho youth at an educational disadvantage compared to their peers in other states,” she said. “Begin a pilot program.”

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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