The Legislature’s joint budget committee began setting agency budgets for next year this morning, though it’s started out with agencies that don’t include any state general funds. First up was the state Department of Finance, which operates from fees paid by the banks and other financial institutions it regulates. Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, proposed approving spending authority to bring the department’s financial institutional examiners up to the full policy-rate pay level once they’ve achieved certification. That bumps the department’s budget above both the agency’s request and the governor’s recommendation, adding nearly half a million dollars in spending authority, but the money wouldn’t be spent unless the employees achieved certification.
Those examiners, once they’re trained, are a hot commodity in the industry, and organizations like FDIC can snap them up for higher pay. “Compliance is a huge issue within the banking industry and financial industry,” Youngblood said. He noted that the department has been moving a few employees at a time up to policy level over the past eight years; his proposal takes care of the whole thing next year. Several other JFAC members objected to the bump, but were outvoted and the budget won overwhelming approval.
Other budgets set this morning include the budget for the state Liquor Division, which was approved 16-1, with just Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, objecting. She said she wasn’t comfortable that items including relocating and modernizing four state liquor stores were consistent with the part of the division’s mission that calls for it to “curtail intemperate use of beverage alcohol.”
Overall, the budget, which includes no general tax funds, shows a 5.2 percent increase; it includes replacing a warehouse roof; remodeling upstairs warehouse space for offices; converting six temporary sales clerk positions to full-time positions with benefits to try to reduce turnover; and adding bar-code scanners at state liquor stores. The budget exceeds the Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation, but only because he recommended tapping the Permanent Building Fund for the roof replacement, while JFAC opted to use liquor funds for that.
The budget for the state lottery for next year won unanimous approval; it’s a maintenance budget that matches Otter’s recommendation and shows just a 1.2 percent increase.