Idaho’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee met for the first time in the 2017 legislative session on Tuesday. JFAC heard more details about the budget proposal put forth by Governor Otter in his State of the State address on Monday and beginning the lengthy process that will ultimately result in the state’s final budget for fiscal year 2017-18.
JFAC heard testimony from Jani Revier of Idaho’s Department of Financial Management, which expanded upon information shared by the governor in his address. Among the numbers relevant to education was confirmation that Governor Otter’s request for discretionary funding remained the same as last year, when Idaho finally clawed its way back to 2009 levels, not accounting for inflation.
Otter did propose $15 million in new money as a line item to help local districts cover health insurance cost increases. That tactic did not go unnoticed by JFAC co-chair Shawn Keough (R-Sandpoint), who questioned why the state would want to tie the hands of local districts rather than make the new funds available through discretionary funding. The IEA shares those concerns and advocates for allowing districts to address priorities and expenses as they see fit through local control.
Overall, Otter’s public education budget proposal represents a 6.4% increase. Last fall, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra proposed a 6.7% increase. She will have an opportunity to lay out the specifics of her budget plan when JFAC hosts “Education Week” starting Monday, January 23. State Board of Education President Emma Atchley is also expected to make a presentation to JFAC at that time.
The House Education Committee will meet for the first time on Wednesday, with new chair Julie Van Orden (R-Blackfoot) gaveling in the committee for the first time. Mark your calendars for next Monday, January 16, when the Idaho Education Association and other education stakeholders have been invited to share their priorities for the legislative session with the Senate Education Committee.
As the session progresses, remember that you care share your thoughts and opinions with legislators. If you are not sure who your legislator is, this handy, interactive map can help https://legislature.idaho.gov/legislators/whosmylegislator/