Legislative Council budget review

Legislative Services Director Eric Milstead, left, presents the budget request for the legislative branch for next year to the Legislative Council on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019.

The Legislature’s own budget request for next year was among the items on the agenda for review by the Legislative Council today, and it occasioned some grumbling. As presented by Legislative Services Director Eric Milstead, the request shows a 2.7% increase in state general funds next year for a “maintenance only” budget, plus a proposed line item for a revenue analyst position, at a total cost, including benefits, travel, computer and printer and training, of $148,800 next year. Milstead said the idea would be to bring on “someone with a background in economics, who can do some econometric modeling.”

While other council members praised the request as “critical” given the fiscal challenges facing the state, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, said, “Do you think it’s wise for us to propose a budget like this? We’re saying we’re different from everyone else by not complying with what’s been asked of all the other agencies?”

Milstead said that’s not the case. “LSO fully intends to comply with the directive issued by the governor,” he said, including a 1% recission from the current year’s budget and a 2% base reduction in the request for next year. Milstead noted that the governor’s directive didn’t forbid all line item proposals for next year.

Bedke said in his view, “This pulling back of money is more of a redirection” than an “old-fashioned budget cut.”

“That money’s going to be placed into someplace else … to reflect the gentleman on the second floor’s priorities,” he said, referring to Gov. Brad Little. “This reflects the Legislature’s priorities.”

Little’s budget guidance to state agencies exempts K-12 public schools from the 1% and 2% reductions, and noted that he not only plans to keep schools whole, he plans to propose continued investments in them. His education task force this week approved five recommendations for improvements to Idaho schools that Little will consider as he formulates a five-year plan. Little said in the memo that education remains his No. 1 priority as governor.

The budget request for the legislative branch for next year also includes the first of two years of requests for funding for redistricting, the once-a-decade process of redrawing legislative and congressional district lines to match the new census.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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