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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Proposed alternative budget would benefit Idaho schools

BOISE – Idaho could spend tens of millions more on public schools, raise pay for teachers and state workers, and restore services to the poor and disabled – all while still balancing its budget next year with 10 percent to spare, the state’s former longtime chief economist said Monday. Mike Ferguson joined with two former state school superintendents – Jerry Evans, a Republican, and Marilyn Howard, a Democrat – to release an alternative state budget that would boost school spending next year by 8.3 percent, instead of Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed 2.9 percent. The three were joined by two members of Otter’s school reform task force, urging lawmakers to consider the plan.

Eye on Boise: Otter’s housing stipend to resume

BOISE – Former longtime chief state economist Mike Ferguson analyzed the latest state tax revenue news – which showed revenues surging 13.2 percent over forecasts for April, the biggest tax revenue month of the year – and concluded that lawmakers likely will have $162 million more on hand when they convene their 2014 legislative session than they thought they would two months ago, at the close of this year’s session. “While the numbers will change (for example, we don’t yet know actual May and June revenue numbers, and we don’t know what revised forecast growth rate will be used for FY 2014), it is clear there will be substantially more revenue available than policymakers thought less than two months ago,” Ferguson writes. “How this additional revenue is utilized will depend on Idaho’s public policy priorities.”

Eye on Boise: Business tax’s end ‘devastating’ to public schools

BOISE – The draft bill released last week by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter to phase out the state’s personal property tax on business equipment would have a “devastating” impact on the state’s public schools, according to a new analysis by Mike Ferguson, the former longtime chief state economist who now heads the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy. “Other state programs (colleges and universities, health and human services, public safety, etc.) would be adversely impacted, but none to the degree of public schools,” Ferguson writes.

Ex-state economist says school funding may violate Idaho law

BOISE – Idaho’s former longtime chief state economist, Mike Ferguson, released a 20-page report Friday on public school funding that reaches a series of startling conclusions, including that Idaho’s current school funding system may be violating two key provisions of the state’s constitution. “Actions that drive local school districts into making dramatic increases in the use of local property tax resources ... raise serious doubt that the Legislature is fulfilling its constitutional obligations,” Ferguson wrote. “It is probably not realistic to expect a quick fix. It is reasonable to expect an open and honest discussion of the direction of Idaho’s public school funding and whether it is living up to the duties and responsibilities handed down by Idaho’s founding fathers.”

Report: Idaho school funding veering from constitution

Idaho's former longtime chief state economist, Mike Ferguson, released a 20-page report today on public school funding that reaches a series of startling conclusions, including that Idaho's current school funding system may be violating two key provisions of the state constitution.

Otter says he’ll continue low-balling state budget

BOISE - Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is promising more of the same from his administration: tight budgeting that may underestimate state revenues, forcing budget cuts that later prove unnecessary, to avoid mid-year holdbacks. That approach attracted criticism this year after Otter and state lawmakers discounted economic forecasts and set the state budget tens of millions of dollars lower than estimated revenues, then ended the fiscal year June 30 with a fat surplus, most of which was doled back out to make up budget cuts to schools.

Idaho gets big boost in revenue

BOISE – The final numbers are in, and after anguishing over deep budget cuts, Idaho ended the fiscal year well ahead of projections for state tax revenues, with an $85.3 million year-end surplus. That means public schools will get an additional $59.9 million. What’s more, Gov. Butch Otter has decided to reverse a decision to put off a scheduled $10 bump in Idaho’s grocery tax credit next year, at a cost of $15 million. It also suggests some of this year’s painful budget cut decisions might not have been necessary, though most won’t be reversed.

Eye on Boise: Big debates coming in top political races

BOISE – It’s debate season, with major debates set in the coming weeks in Idaho’s top political races, giving voters who tune in a chance to see and compare the candidates. The two major-party candidates for governor, incumbent Gov. Butch Otter and Democrat Keith Allred, have faced off twice in recent weeks at City Club events in Idaho Falls and Boise; the two also are scheduled for two televised debates in late October, though Otter canceled on a planned Oct. 7 debate in Lewiston.

Idaho budget holes may get $80 million in patches

BOISE – The state’s modest economic recovery should help Idaho finish the fiscal year with $80 million more tax revenue than the 2010 Legislature predicted, if a new forecast holds true. Gov. Butch Otter’s chief economist, Mike Ferguson, issued his new outlook this week for the year ending June 30, 2011.