Idaho budget writers approve cuts for substance abuse treatment, public television and higher education

Brian Murphy
March 9, 2010
Idaho Statesman

Idaho budget writers approved sharp budget cuts for substance abuse treatment, Idaho Public Television and higher education in fiscal year 2011 on Tuesday morning.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE

The budget for substance abuse treatment fell from $31 million in FY 2010 to $28.7 million in 2011. Of that, $12.5 million comes from General Funds. The budget includes money from the Millennium Fund and the Office of Drug Policy.

Democrats on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee again suggested ways to increase revenue to pay for treatment. Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, suggested looking at taxes on beer and wine, a proposal that failed last session. Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, said that by delaying the grocery tax credit, lawmakers could free up $35 million.

"I don't think this is the best we can do," LeFavour said.

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene, said the state is in much better shape than others and suggested that lawmakers consider the positives.

"This is like, 'Is the glass half-full or half-empty?' The glass is 7-8ths full," he said. "We could have no glass or we could have an empty glass."

The motion made in JFAC included a 15.6 percent cut, but that did not nearly $2 million from the Millennium Fund.

IDAHO PUBLIC TELEVISION

Gov. Butch Otter recommended phasing out General Fund dollars for the agency over the next four years, but lawmakers did not go that far.

The budget approved by JFAC includes a 16.3 percent cut in state funding and an 8.3 percent cut in overall funding for Idaho Public Television. While IPTV has gotten a lot of attention from the public and lawmakers during the session, there was no debate on the budget and it passed 19-0.

IPTV is funded largely by private donations. Otter is scheduled to appear Wednesday in primetime to help fund raise during IPTV's 2010 Festival, a fund-raising campaign.

Otter responded to the cuts for public television with a statement Tuesday.

"I appreciate JFAC's actions today and its careful consideration of this issue. I look forward to continuing our work together on this and other efforts to help ensure state agencies live within the people's means. That's the most important goal we share," Otter said.

"Today's action is another step in a process that began last fall when we started with holdbacks. Since then, the State Board of Education has increased its oversight of IPTV and we have a new business plan that we are examining to see if we can find more savings in the future.

"I also am working with Rep. Moyle and Sen. Hill on House Bill 630 to increase the charitable tax credit for IPTV donors. All that will contribute toward a secure and self-sustaining public television system for all of Idaho."

COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

The committee approved more than $32.1 million in cuts for Idaho's four public colleges and universities — Boise State University, University of Idaho, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College.

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, made a motion to move $5.7 million from the seldom-used $25 million public schools facilities fund to help address higher education cuts.

Jaquet said her concern is that tuition and fees will rise to offset budget cuts, pricing higher ed out of the reach of many struggling Idaho families.

The motion failed on a party-line vote and the lower budget was adopted.

The College of Western Idaho, which requested more than $1 million to help deal with extraordinary enrollment growth, did not receive any additional funding.

"Hopefully when we come back our revenue situation is different and we can maybe catch up on enrollment growth," said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444


Originally posted at http://www.idahostatesman.com/2010/03/09/1110740/idaho-budget-writers-approve-cuts.html

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