Education, Corrections and Health & Welfare: Setting Budgets is Top Priority
Week number 7 is in the books. This week in the JFAC Committee we were in full swing setting budgets. Monday we started with the $2.3 Billion K-12 Education budgets. These budgets represent the largest state general funds budgets consuming more than 55% of our state’s general funds tax dollars. While many say it may not be enough it is a major investment in our children. Included in this budget is a very important investment and initiative supported by Governor Little to improve early childhood literacy. Our goal is to have every child reading at grade level or better by the third grade. Studies prove this is a significant milestone for success in our children’s future.
On Thursday we approved the Idaho Department of Corrections budgets totaling $273 million. Public safety is, and always will be, a very high priority for our state. Unfortunately, crime takes a toll on our citizens both in terms of money and resources. Our recidivism rate is well over 60%, meaning we have way too much repeat business. This year’s budget includes investments in areas that should assist in reducing our recidivism rate through better transitions for those who’ve paid their debts to society back into daily life.
Starting Friday we began setting the Health and Welfare budgets which represent another of the state’s largest budgets. We’ll complete setting the Health and Welfare budgets next week. This week we saw a noticeable increase in the Medicaid expansion conversations and with a few Medicaid bills introduced. The Governor also stated he will not allow the legislature to complete our session until Medicaid is funded. In my opinion the question isn’t whether Medicaid will be funded, but rather what will it look like.
I would like to encourage you to log onto legislature.idaho.gov where you will find bills, committee recordings and live stream videos of our House and Senate floor sessions. I am proud of the work being done this year by the legislative branch and your involvement is important! Lastly, don't forget to connect with me on Facebook.
JFAC supports education budgets
After weeks of hearing budget requests from state agencies and the Governor’s recommendations on school budgets, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) is moving forward in support of Governor Little’s recommendations. The Governor’s top priorities include increasing starting teacher pay and his early literacy initiative for students in kindergarten through the 3rd grade.
A school budget increase of 6.1 percent received unanimous support from the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. The public school budget for 2020 is $1.9 billion and JFAC was able to include funding for key policy items requested including funding early literacy by $13.2 million. Discretionary funding was increased for school districts to cover health insurance costs and general inflation in the amount of $14.6 million.
The Governor has introduced legislation to spread an increase in starting teacher salaries over a two-year period, which would raise minimum teacher salaries to $38,500 in 2020 and then to $40,000 in 2021. The current minimum for starting teacher salaries is $37,000. Other budget increases included a $7 million increase for the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, master teacher premiums to provide up to $4,000 a year for high-performing teachers, and a $3 million increase for the Advanced Opportunities program. The school budgets still need passage by both the House and Senate as well as the Governor’s signature before they become law. Click here for more details on school budget increases.
In addition, JFAC passed unanimously the revisions of several smaller education budget proposals, including the Career-technical education, State Board of Education, and STEM Action Center budgets. Click here for more information from Idaho Education News.
Background: The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) was created in 1967 when the Idaho Legislature merged the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees for budget setting purposes. Each committee consists of nine members and one chairman. The Idaho Constitution requires a balanced budget, and, therefore, the sum of all the appropriation bills must not exceed the revenue estimate.
Senate Joint Memorial 102 Regulation Freedom Amendment
U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have often said Washington D.C. would be better off if it operated more like Idaho. The Regulation Freedom Amendment is one way to help them get there.
Tuesday’s passage of the Regulation Freedom Amendment, Senate Joint Memorial 102 (SMJ 102), by the Senate was an important step forward in providing the U.S. Congress with the authority to review regulations that may overreach or misinterpret the law’s legislative intent. SJM 102 will now move to the House for consideration.
The Regulation Freedom Amendment urges Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to allow for congressional review of proposed regulations for which there is a written objection made by at least a quarter of either the U.S. Senators or House Members. Under this amendment, the proposed regulation would then need majority approval by both the House and Senate to be enacted.
Idaho’s legislature is constitutionally bound to review new regulations and has the power to review and repeal old regulations. The addition of a comparable amendment to the U.S. Constitution aligns with Idaho’s belief in the importance of having clear and defined separations of power between the three branches of government. Twenty-eight other state legislatures have likewise urged Congress to propose the Regulation Freedom Amendment. Seven current and former Governors, including Vice President Mike Pence, have made the same request. The power of states to influence Congress in the proposal of amendments is not unprecedented; twelve of the twenty-seven amendments to the U.S. Constitution were made at the request of States.
The Regulation Freedom Amendment is not a partisan issue. Two-thirds of the States must ratify the Congressional proposal before it is certified as part of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment would still only need a quarter of either chamber to request a regulatory review. Additionally, constitutional amendments are difficult to change. It is effective assurance that government agencies adhere to the intent of the U.S. legislative branch. Click here to review SJM 201.
4-H Students meet Legislators at the Know Your Government Conference
4-H students from across the state came together in Boise this week to see Idaho’s government in action. The Know Your Government (KYG) Conference is held each year during Presidents Day weekend. This year’s KYG conference theme was “Oh! The places you’ll go”. The KYG mission is to empower youth to be well-informed, actively engaged citizens in both their communities and state.
Students met with Legislators and participated in a legislative workshop, learning about the state government decision-making process by participating in mock committee meetings and a legislative floor session. The 4-H participants also toured the Supreme Court building where they met with judges and attorneys; they also visited the Ada County Courthouse where they received hands-on experience in Idaho’s judicial system with the opportunity to participate in mock trials.
Idaho State Grange Day at the Capitol
The Idaho State Grange met at the Capitol rotunda this week to speak with Legislators on issues important to the agricultural industry and its communities. The National Grange was founded in 1867 as a grassroots organization aimed to strengthen individuals, families, and communities through action, service, education, advocacy and agriculture.
Each year the Idaho State Grange members come to the Capitol to inform Legislators of their legislative agenda. This year legislative priorities include the protection of water rights for agriculture, updating immigration laws to address agricultural needs for temporary workers, defending the First Amendment, and broadband technology access that will create opportunities for telehealth and distance education in Idaho. Click here for more information.