The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee today voted to give all state workers an ongoing 2 percent raise, but that would not include teachers. JFAC also set a budget target of $2.667 billion, which is 4.5 percent over the current budget year but $33 million below Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation. The budget panel will start setting budgets next Monday and aims to be done by March 9.
In his State of the State message, Otter called for one-time bonuses to reward public employees, including teachers, and for full funding of the education reforms that he and State Superintendent Tom Luna sought last year. Under their plan, the reforms would be paid for – as they were this year – by a shift from salary-based apportionment money, which means districts would have less money to hire educators.
Luna – who is acutely aware that his reforms are on the ballot this November as Propositions 1,2, and 3 – has been lobbying budget writers to backfill the scheduled $19.4 million salary-based apportionment transfer for FY2013.Otter has been noncommittal, but this morning, the chairmen of the House and Senate Education Committees both expressed support for that move.
However, JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) threw another curve ball into the budget scenario on Wednesday when he introduced a bill, S1331, which would change Luna’s reform laws by eliminating the salary-based apportionment shift. Cameron’s bill, to be heard in the Senate Education Committee, would force budget writers to find funding for Luna’s reforms without taking it from the salary pool. Cameron has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate (including Senate Education Chair John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene), but the bill faces an uncertain future in the House. As Bill Spence of the Lewiston Tribune wrote yesterday:
“He never approached me about it,” said Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, chairman of the House Education Committee.
Given all the competing demands for general fund dollars, Nonini questioned whether that was a sustainable approach to paying for the classroom technology and performance bonuses.
“If the (economic) recovery slows, we may be setting ourselves up for failure,” he said. “It would take us back into budget-cut territory.”
What will happen next? Stay tuned to the Hotline for details.