Gov. Butch Otter has submitted a series of revisions to his executive budget to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee today, to reflect an increased transfer to the Idaho Department of Water Resources for water projects and programs, along with a series of updates, from more savings than anticipated in the Catastrophic Health Care fund to more students enrolling in Idaho schools.
“The governor’s budget remains structurally balanced with no one-time funds being used for ongoing expenses,” Jani Revier, Otter’s budget director, told JFAC this morning.
The bottom-line result of all the revisions is that the ending balance for the year, under Otter’s proposed budget, rises from $6 million to $9 million, and the total percentage increase for the general fund for fiscal year 2017 rises from 7.3 percent to 7.6 percent.
The $9.5 million transfer from the economic recovery fund for the water programs brings back to the general fund $9.5 million that lawmakers transferred to that reserve fund last year in anticipation of the 27th payroll period costs in fy 2017, a quirk of the calendar that occurs once every 11 years. Revier said Otter’s budget already anticipated covering the general fund portion of those payroll costs without tapping that reserve.
The other changes reflected in Otter’s revision include: A nearly $5 million increase in the public schools budget, due to updated enrollment figures that require adding 47 support units, or roughly the equivalent of 47 additional classrooms full of kids; various small increases and decreases due to updates and technical corrections; the removal of a $2.9 million reversion that had been anticipated from the Department of Health & Welfare, but now is on hold pending a rate study for in-home care services; and recognition of more than $11 million in additional savings in the CAT fund.
In a letter to lawmakers today, Otter wrote that he wants to “fully fund … accelerated implementation” of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer settlement agreement. “Active management, data-driven administration and immediate action are required to sustain Idaho’s precious water resources, including reversing the decline in aquifer levels,” Otter wrote. “We must exercise responsible stewardship of the resource to ensure the opportunity for future growth, development and prosperity. Our objective must be maintaining the long-term health of water resources throughout Idaho.”
He said the changes he’s recommending on water funding include transferring $6.5 million in one-time funding into the Secondary Aquifer Planning, Management and Implementation Fund, thereby increasing the transfer to that fund to $16.5 million; and increasing ongoing funds for water sustainability projects from his earlier $2 million recommendation to $5 million.