Wednesday, November 26, 2008

State budget shortfall

Due to less revenue than forecast, Gov Otter has asked State agencies to cut budgets by 1%. The Dept. of Ag and the Office of the Attorney General are having employees take a bit of leave without pay, and other agencies are finding the 1% as well. The Gov has also warned that he may order additional cuts, perhaps up to 2.5%.

I heard on the radio today that BSU and UI are looking at additional cuts up to a total of 5%.

So, State revenue is down this year, and will probably be down next year as well, since the country is in a recession.

The Gov has stated two priorities (among others), and it will be interesting to see how they play out. In a down dollar year, I suspect the Gov may reprioritize, and in any event, I expect the legislature to not share these priorities.

First, State employee pay. The Gov wants to bring it in line with the private sector. He said it would take 3 years of 5% raises per year. Last year the raises were 3%. I'll bet this year the raise will be 0 or perhaps 1%. State employee raises are often one of the first places the legislature looks to save money. What makes it harder to accept no raise is that the other half of the Gov's initiative has already been implemented. And that is, to lower benefits to employees to also bring them in line with the private sector. So benefits have been reduced, but salary hasn't yet been increased accordingly. This will be interesting to watch.

Second, transportation, particularly for the Boise - Nampa corridor. Legislators from elsewhere, and even if few turncoats from this valley, aren't convinced of the need to spend money for this stretch of interstate. Well, I've got a sure fire way to persuade them. During some weekday while the legislature is in session, preferably a day when it snows, rent a couple of buses, load them up with legislators from around the state, and drive to Nampa on the interstate, departing at 4:00 PM. That should open their eyes to the need. If this doesn't happen, and of course it won't, expect the legislature to be pretty stingy with transportation money.

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