The Legislature’s budget-setting panel has adopted a revenue number that will pare an additional $69 million from state spending this year compared to what Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter initially recommended and cut the governor’s proposed budget for next fiscal year by $60 million.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved a target of $2.28 billion for the current fiscal year and $2.29 billion for the 2011 fiscal year.
The 16 Republican lawmakers on the committee approved the numbers, while the four Democrats voted against them.
The committee accepted revenue projections from the Legislature’s Joint Legislature Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee.
The governor, who unveiled his budget in early January, has since offered support for the revised numbers. He had originally proposed a budget with $2.35 billion in general fund revenue next year.
The Republicans on the committee said the numbers are realistic and reflect the state’s struggling economy, still weighed down by high unemployment. They also said any increase in government revenue would lag an economic recovery.
“There is no work ahead for some sectors and industries in this next six months to a year, and we cannot forget that,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, R- Sandpoint. “I’d far rather come back next year and refill the coffers if we have the ability to do that than to close schools in the middle of the year, close prisons. I really think we need to think about these things as we make this decision.”
Democrats wanted to stick with Otter’s numbers, citing the forecasts of his chief economist, Mike Ferguson. They said additional layoffs of state employees and cuts in state services would only drag the state’s economy down even more.
“We all know what’s needed to move Idaho’s economy ahead, jobs and consumer confidence,” said Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow. “Our actions today will set the tone. … I believe that by projecting too low today, we will impede a recovery that we’re ready to make.”