Budget

AP

As we wrap up week seven of the 2017 Idaho Legislature, lawmakers have passed 37 bills into new laws. That number will increase dramatically in the next four weeks.

One hot button issue this week was a bill that could have had some effect on the types of gaming that Native American tribes in Idaho could offer in their casinos.

In our 2017 Weekly Legislative Update, Boise State University professor Gary Moncrief says the House State Affairs Committee spent a lot of time on this bill. He say that was a little unusual for lawmakers.

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Joint Finance Appropriations Committee
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Friday we wrap up week six of the Idaho Legislature. Lawmakers are getting down to the business of passing bills in committees and sending them to the House and Senate floor.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, or JFAC considered the final budget requests from the state agencies this week. That means this panel of 20 is switching gears and will start to draft bills, in fact, the committee is expected to write close to 100 budget bills.

AP

Update, 1:08 p.m.:

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's top priority for Idaho lawmakers is to focus on education in 2017.

Otter announced his short wish list during his annual State of the State address Monday afternoon.

The Republican governor proposed a 4.6 percent increase — roughly a $189 million funding bump — to the state's overall budget. More than 60 percent of that would go toward education, including more funding for teacher salaries and higher education facilities.

money, budget
Tax Credits / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho is on track to finish the fiscal year with $139 million more tax revenue than the 2016 Legislature predicted, if the latest forecast holds true.

According to revenue projections released Thursday, Idaho should take in nearly $3.26 billion from state tax and fees for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. The amount is $92 million more than what lawmakers originally estimated during this year's legislative session.

Jill Stewart / Flickr Creative Commons

Cities are looking to spend extra cash left in their budget thanks to the drop in fuel prices in 2015.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that Caldwell and Nampa saw major savings in their 2015 fuel budgets. In Nampa, the police department has had surplus funds in its fuel budget for the past three years.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter began outlining his budget and policy priorities for state lawmakers during his "State of the State" address Monday afternoon, naming public education as his primary focus for the year.

The annual speech kicks off the start of the legislative session, with state lawmakers, members of the judiciary and other leaders gathered in the Idaho Statehouse to hear Otter's remarks.

Otter reminded lawmakers of the state's constitutional requirement to provide a general, uniform and free public school system. He proposed a 7.9 percent increase to the state's public education budget. That would bring the total to $1.59 billion. It's the second year in a row that Otter has proposed steep hikes for education spending.

Republican state Sen. Shawn Keough of Sandpoint has been appointed to co-chair Idaho's powerful budget-setting committee.

President Pro Tem Brent Hill of Rexburg on Monday announced that Keough will replace former Sen. Dean Cameron of Rupert, who left the Idaho Legislature earlier this year to lead the state Department of Insurance.

Keough has served 20 years in the Idaho Statehouse, making her the longest serving female senator in Idaho's history.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Legislation that would increase Idaho's public school funding and boost salary increases for teachers has only one remaining hurdle.

The Idaho House approved all seven pieces of the state's largest budget with almost no discussion on Monday, sending the bills to the governor's desk.

None of the bills — a combined $1.4 billion in general funds — garnered more than seven votes in opposition.

Under the proposals, public schools funding will increase by 7.4 percent to help fund the first year of the new teacher pay increase.

Loss Of Federal Timber Payments Hit Idaho Harder Than Most States

Mar 11, 2015

Idaho is among five U.S. states losing the largest amount of federal timber payments aimed at rural counties and school districts.

Congress let the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expire in the fall of 2014, leaving Idaho counties and school districts with $26 million less than expected.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The Basin School District in Idaho City has something most districts in the state don’t, preschool.

On Wednesdays, 12 preschoolers leave their small house-turned-school and walk across the playground to the high school’s music room. The children sit cross-legged in a circle and the music teacher hands out two brightly-colored sticks to each student. Music class for these preschoolers is all about rhythm, following directions, and giggling.

Congress let the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expire in the fall of 2014, leaving Idaho counties and school districts with $26 million less than expected.

Idaho counties will bear the brunt of this loss. Seventy percent of Secure Rural Schools money goes to counties for things like road maintenance. Thirty percent goes to school districts.

Data from the Idaho Association of Counties shows Idaho County will lose more money than any other county, nearly $7.3 million.

Idaho Capitol Dome
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The non-partisan Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy finds the governor's budget proposal isn't balanced, when taking into account wildfire fighting costs and ongoing expenses. 

The center's analysis shows Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's recommended budget doesn't include money to pay for last year's $27.7 million firefighting bill. The governor's office says it doesn't budget for wildfires because costs vary from year to year. Instead, lawmakers pay for fire costs the year after they're incurred.

"Depending on what the legislature chooses to do with spending and tax cuts, growth in the economy should cover the fire costs," Otter spokesman Jon Hanian says.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's State of the State address on Monday put a lot of focus on a 7.4 percent increase in education spending. That's an increase of more than $101 million from the previous fiscal year, and a significant boost since the Great Recession.

Gov. Otter Outlines Budget Increase, Pay Raises, Tax Cuts

Jan 12, 2015
Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is kicking off the 2015 legislative session with his annual State of the State address and budget proposal, where he outlines increased spending for schools, boosting state employee pay, cutting income taxes, and leaving some tough decisions up to the Legislature.

An idea Otter returns to repeatedly in his speech is that "Idaho learns."

Boise State Public Radio

A leading Idaho Democrat says he’s seen a change in recent years in the way members of the Republican-controlled Legislature look at spending money.

Growth in Idaho’s economy has led to increased state revenue. As a result, Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, says lawmakers who approved large cuts to state programs during the recession, have now changed their tact. Rusche is the House Minority Leader.

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