Surplus suggests better budget prospects for 2012 Idaho Legislature, but plenty of controversy afoot

Lawmakers face brighter budget prospects when they convene in January but considerable uncertainties remain, the Legislature’s budget chief said Thursday.

“There’s positive to this, but also there’s a sense of caution,” Cathy Holland-Smith, division manager for budget and policy analysis, told the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho.

Current projections say the state will have a surplus of about $130 million when fiscal year 2012 ends in June.

“That’s not money in the bank,” Holland-Smith said. “It is a projection and the concern is spending money that we don’t yet have.”

She predicted two flash points for the 2012 Legislature: When to make good on the promise of Gov. Butch Otter and many lawmakers to restore education funding when the economy revives, and how to contain soaring health care costs.

“Both of those will be very, very challenging and it could be somewhat divisive,” Holland-Smith said.

One competing idea will be cutting taxes, she said. Another will be efforts to restore agency budgets after three years of deep cuts.

Holland-Smith outlined $84 million in non-discretionary spending increases that likely will come off the top for fiscal 2013, principally for Medicaid and schools. After accounting for growth in fiscal 2013 revenue, that leaves a balance of about $78 million for increases. State agencies, however, have asked Otter for $143 million more, a 12.2 percent increase.

Holland-Smith also noted the state has drained about $395 million in reserves since fiscal 2009. In fiscal 2009 alone, expected revenue fell $444 million short in a $2.9 million general fund budget. Fiscal 2012 is budgeted at $2.53 billion.

“One thing that concerns me more than anything is what’s Plan B?” Holland-Smith said. “ We have fewer choices because we don’t have reserves.”

Lawmakers must balance the books on 2012 and write a budget for fiscal 2013. Holland-Smith predicted they will begin to restore reserves and moderate government growth to cushion the blow for the next downturn.

A key to their approach will be the consensus about where the economy is headed. “There will be very mixed feelings about the strength of the economy,” Holland-Smith said.

ATI, a group of Idaho’s leading companies, is holding its 65th annual conference at the Boise Centre. About 300 business leaders, lobbyists and government officials are attending.

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Idaho has done very well....I think it has alot

to do with the Rs....

Also, Idaho never left its Ag base like Cali is doing....that is why most smart Calis are moving to Idaho and even skipping Nv....

Thanking my R party for

46th in Mental Health
6th in propergy foreclosures
12th in most uninsured
50th in spending per pupil ( and now most increases will be going to out of state online companies)
48th in Teacher pay
50th in support for Seniors
Middle in Education Scoring (Amazing considering the above other educ. stats
and so on.

6 of the top 10 economies are Rep controlled.

Idaho is 28th

ummm.....thanks? I guess

This is a phony surplus

Had the "R's" followed the advice of Mike Ferguson, a 25+ year veteran state Chief Economist and spent to his forecast, there would not be a surplus. This is like saying if you cut your household budget to $0, every dollar you made would be a surplus. Nonsense. This money needs to go back to the departments from which it was artificially cut last year (mostly education). If Mike Moyle (majority leader in the House) has his way, this phony surplus will be nothing more than a transfer of state revenue from vital services for you and your family to the bottom line profits of major Idaho corporations.

The Republican leadership argues that if we lower the corporate tax rate, it will attract more businesses to Idaho. Not one Republican legislator can name a single company they know for certain will relocate or expand in Idaho by simply lowering the corporate tax rate. This is a nice thing to hope for, but all it will do for certain is lower state revenue. We need to elect people to the legislature with a broader perspective to make sure we make decisions based on fact, not ideological belief.

There is no surplus; it is a scam to give more money to the supposed "job creators" (that haven't created jobs, or moved them elsewhere) at your expense in the form of a state government that works less for you. But that's what you get when you keep on voting for people who believe "the government that governs best governs least." You get the least (except for the wealthy and powerful few). They are always first in line under the current leadership in the state legislature. This class warfare has to stop.

All true

FergFerg was dead on target, as usual. The Legislators chose to ignore him and under-fund their least favorite departments. Now surprisingly we have money left over? Yeah... because Ferguson was right all along, and the Legislators were wrong.

Leave it to the experts next time, guys. You pay him the $ for a reason- he's the expert, not you!!

Let's invest in higher education

Technical education to be exact. Make BSU's and U of I's engineering programs some of the best in the country, improve BSU's business college even further, and bring ISU's nursing, speech therapy and deaf ed programs out of the stone age. All of these would go a long ways towards both incubating new industry right here (which Boise used to be very, very good at) and attracting good jobs to the area.

On top of that some top of the line ag related degrees would be great as well.

Truth is hard to come by

It is Obvious

There are only three priorities: Medicaid, education and reserves.

You forgot alcohol.

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Everybody wants to hue the knurled

Surpluses are easy

Just cut everything beyond belief the three years prior, then pat yourself on the back the fourth year.

In other words, the state is actually still running at a LOSS, since education, health care, and departmental budgets were subjected to draconian cuts that have to be replenished.

Not to mention the state still has $200 million in unemployment bonds that have to be repaid.

Education get's enough

Education is a bottomless money pit, no matter what they get, they want more, I say enough, make them live within their budget like the rest of us has to..........

Yes, we can see by your email

(us has to ??) that education is NOT a priority to you. Do your research and get the real facts. Your state of Idaho is once again headed to the bottom of the statistics for student success in the country. Spend a day or several in a classroom to see what the teachers are actually dealing with instead of listening to all the 'junk'. If they weren't so busy babysitting due to having their hands tied at every turn, they could perhaps teach. Help to change some of the ridiculous Federal, State and Administrative rules the teachers need to work within and perhaps they could actually do their job. When people are blaming teachers for the lack of results, its because they really haven't checked the facts or spent any time in a real classroom setting. I HAVE gone in and watched. I have seen the reality. There is always a few poor performers in any occupation. In my opinion, teachers are doing an awesome job with the constraints they are given. Go Teachers and thanks for the job you do!!!

You'd think math would be emphasized-BUT WAIT!

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Everybody wants to hue the knurled

Iz thiss a johk?

Huh?

Props

Props for use of "afoot" in a news headline

Afoot because they won't give and inch but will take a mile.

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Everybody wants to hue the knurled

How about some pay increases for the work force.

Priority should go to those who have the longest time w/o pay increases or bonuses.

Surplus? Shortage?

Which is it? We need new budget accounting folks.