Monday, January 10, 2011

State of the State

Idaho Statehouse, State of the State address, Jake Putnam photo

Otter Addresses Budget Shortfall

Boise--Idaho Governor Butch Otter delivered good news with bad this afternoon during his annual State of the State address.

The second term governor set out to address a massive $340 million deficit, but the budget office reported that better than expected revenue helped offset the shortfall, that's the good news.

The bad news is that Otter wants to cut more than $35 million in spending from state agencies to help balance the budget with most of the cuts coming to adult Medicaid services.

Sen. Nicole Lefavour (D-Boise) urged caution: “People with disabilities value their independence; taking away resources takes away independence, and that could cost us down the road. We need to be careful where we cut.”

Otter decided against further cuts to public schools, lawmakers cut $128 million this year."That’s remarkable given the revenue shortage,” said Lt. Governor Brad Little. “It speaks to the fact that education is our number one priority." The Governor ruled out tax hikes for the next fiscal year.

"I totally agree with his speech. I think this was the best address he has given. There’s a unity for the first time since we took office and we are seeing efficiency in these hard times and it’s brought us together, we’re realizing savings we didn’t know were there,” said State Controller Donna Jones.

Wayne Hammon of the Division of Financial Management says this year’s budget shortfall is still more than $50 million.

Otter recommends cutting $25 million from Medicaid, another $10 million in cuts to other state agencies and a one-year delay in implementation of a grocery tax credit for families, to fill in the gap.

"Now that zero‐base budgeting is in place, we must find a way to institutionalize this new culture of responsible austerity and ensure that we nurture continuing improvements to State government operations," said Otter.

“Our budget problems seem so enormous, the solutions so small, the Governor sees a rainbow out there, there’s positive activity in the economy and its encouraging that he hasn’t given up on the positive,” said Rep. Maxine Bell, (R-Jerome).

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