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News >  Idaho

Idaho lawmakers aim for transparency in budgeting process

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 14, 2020

By Keith Ridler Associated Press

BOISE – The co-chairmen of the Legislature’s powerful budget-setting committee said Tuesday they are backing Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s call for “transparent budgeting.”

Republican Sen. Steve Bair and Republican Rep. Rick Youngblood said the change is long overdue and will provide a more accurate picture of the state’s budget.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee they co-chair for the next six weeks will be going over state agency budgets that are being trimmed 1% this year and 2% next year. The change means lump-sum transfers of money will have to be broken down into clearly defined line-item entries and show up as expenditures.

Previously, those transfers didn’t “show up as true expenditures,” Bair said, noting the last budget that had 7.1% growth. “We actually probably spent significantly more than 7.1% if those transfers would have been in the expense portion of the budget.

“By moving those transfers out of the revenue stream, we get a true picture of what we are actually going to be spending percentage-wise.”

“Before, all you would see is just a big number of transfers which had all of this stuff in it,” Youngblood said.

“Now, it’s broken down into each line item for every agency.”

Little called for transparency in budgeting in his State of the State address on Monday, when he unveiled a 3.75% budget increase, the lowest increase in years.

“From now on, it will be easier for the public to discern true spending growth in the executive budget because I instructed my budget office not to rely on one-time transfers or other budget gimmicks,” Little said in the speech.

Alex Adams, administrator of the Idaho Division of Financial Management, said one-time transfers are not included when calculating percentage growth of the state’s budget.

“So by picking them up as a line item or maintenance items, it’s a much more transparent way of doing business, and shows Idahoans what the true growth in spending is,” he said.

Ultimately, he said, it will be better for a state agency to have expenses accounted for as line items or maintenance items and become part of its regular budget rather than have the uncertainty of hoping a transfer is approved by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Also, he said, it provides “transparency so that Idaho citizens can have confidence in what our balance sheet looks like as a state.”

Little’s budget that lawmakers are considering has a revenue forecast of about $4.1 billion, which would be the first time the state’s revenue exceeded $4 billion.

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