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News >  Idaho

Batt Kills Program With United Way School Volunteer Program Also Getting Axed

Gov. Phil Batt has decided to end the loaning of state-paid workers to the United Way charity drive.

Batt also announced this week that he won’t extend a program begun by former Gov. Cecil Andrus that encouraged state employees to volunteer in school classrooms up to four hours a month - on state time.

“He personally is very supportive of charities and charitable contributions, and he’s going to encourage employees to become active as volunteers and to give money,” Batt spokeswoman Julie Pipal said Thursday. But Batt doesn’t want that volunteering to happen on state time.

Pipal said Batt looked “across the board … at the proper use of taxpayer dollars (and) this practice doesn’t go along with his philosophy.”

Ron Rankin, the Coeur d’Alene anti-tax activist who waged an independent campaign for governor against Batt, had threatened to sue the state if Batt didn’t stop the United Way loan program immediately. Three state employees will spend two months working on the private fund-raising campaign in Boise this fall.

Batt decided to allow the three to finish the campaign this year, but end the program after that.

Rankin said Thursday that he’s not satisfied. “That’s not good enough,” he said. “He should be abandoning it immediately.”

Rankin said he believes the “loaned executive” program is illegal, and he may still go to court to challenge it.

Rankin hadn’t protested the school volunteer program, which Batt plans to let expire Jan. 1.

“The difference is 100 percent,” a surprised Rankin said. “What they were doing was allowing state employees to assist other state employees. I don’t think it was a good idea, but it was perfectly legal.”

Doug Cresswell, Coeur d’Alene school superintendent, said he didn’t expect the program’s demise to have much impact on volunteerism in local schools, which he said are experiencing a surge of parent involvement.

Batt also is reviewing a state Fish and Game Department practice of allowing an employee to spend state-paid time doing work for the private, non-profit Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

, DataTimes

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