Here’s a bit of an oddity: The Legislature’s Joint Millennium Fund Committee has scheduled a full day and a half of hearings later this week to hear from 23 groups seeking funding for next year. But the Legislature’s interim working group on the alternatives for Idaho’s health coverage gap already has recommended tapping those Millennium Fund dollars, which come from an endowment set up with Idaho’s share of a national tobacco settlement, for health care for the state’s gap population.
Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, and Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, co-chair the Joint Millennium Fund Committee, and both also served on the interim health care alternatives panel.
Wood has this explanation: “We’re going down two parallel paths, and then JFAC will decide.”
Wood said it’s possible that there would be money left over from Millennium Fund earnings next year after pitches from groups ranging from Health & Welfare’s Project Filter to public health districts’ tobacco cessation programs to the Idaho Meth Project are considered. Or the Millennium Fund panel may not grant the funding requests. “I don’t know whether we’re going to fund, or how many of the requests we’re going to fund or not,” he said. “The gap interim committee did make recommendation to take that money and do something else with it. And everyone’s been notified that just because you seek funding doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.”
Or both panels could simultaneously end up proposing different uses for the same money, which this year amounted to $12.5 million, of which $9.6 million was allocated out to the various health-related and tobacco-related programs.
“The Millennium Fund Committee only recommends,” Wood said. “We have no authority to do anything other than make a recommendation to JFAC,” the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which writes the state budget.
“That’s the reason that we did it that way, and that’s the reason we’re going ahead and having full hearings,” Wood said. “Because I have no idea what the Legislature is going to be thinking about the interim committee on the gap population, about their recommendation. The federal elections of course have turned everything upside down, and I don’t know what’s going to come out of this session.”