As the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee began its hearings on state agencies’ budgets today, it received some interesting news this morning from the state Department of Insurance: The department has reverted almost 20 percent of its overall budget back to the state general fund.
Department Director Dean Cameron – the former Senate Finance chair – told JFAC, “The Department of Insurance is in good shape, as you can tell – extremely busy.”
The department actually doesn’t receive state general funds; it’s funded by dedicated funds, including fines and licensing fees. Any excess amount it collects reverts to the state general fund, as do all the premium taxes the department collects.
Legislative budget analyst Keith Bybee told the joint committee, “As the director talked about, they take their budget seriously, and send as much back to the general fund as they can.”
For the coming year, Gov. Butch Otter has requested just over a 1 percent increase in the department’s budget. That’s largely to convert three contracted positions to state employees, in a money-saving effort; and to add a $16,600 expenditure for cybersecurity insurance; portions of the full cost of the insurance, which will cost more than $1 million next year, will come from other agencies’ budgets.
JFAC also held a budget hearing this morning for the Idaho Department of Finance; it is requesting to add an IT programmer analyst, a financial examiner/investigator, and a public information officer next year. Like the Department of Insurance, the Department of Finance receives no state general tax funds.
The Public Utilities Commission, which also receives no state general funds, is recommended to receive a 3.9 percent budget increase next year, in part to raise commissioner salaries by 3 percent, the same amount Gov. Butch Otter is recommending for merit raises for state employees. At the Office of Energy and Mineral Resources, another agency that operates solely with dedicated and federal funds, Otter is recommending a 7.4 percent budget increase, but that’s only a $93,000 boost in the agency’s budget to $1.35 million. It includes a $58,000 increase in an energy efficiency retrofit program and $5,200 for an intern for that program.
On Tuesday morning, JFAC is scheduled to hear a budget revision from Otter; and hold budget hearings on the Commission for Libraries, the Commission on the Arts, the Division of Human Resources, and the state’s Judicial Branch. The joint committee meets starting at 8 a.m.; you can watch live here (click on “JFAC”).