POCATELLO, Idaho - The former chief economist for the State of Idaho is making the rounds, presenting an alternative budget for the Gem State, put together by Idaho's Center for Fiscal Policy.
This budget would add millions to education, the Department of Health and Welfare, as well as pay increases to state and public school employees. Mike Ferguson, director of ICFP, said his budget plan, while including funding for Medicaid expansion, would save the state money in the long run.
One of the big differences between Ferguson's budget and the current fiscal year budget for 2015 is where the money would go. Right now, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's budget puts $71 million from 2014 into reserve funds for 2015.
"The alternative budget doesn't do that," Ferguson said after presenting his plan to area superintendents and financial planners. "It allows those funds to flow through into 2015 where they're available for funding public services."
Ferguson said this plan still leaves over $200 million in the states reserves. But he said this "extra money" is really just restoring cuts, like $35 million to the Health and Welfare budget, and $34.5 million to education.
"Part of the message I've been trying to convey is how deep the cuts have been in terms of our funding of public schools," said Ferguson. He said colleges have not been as affected by budget cuts and detailing how public institutions have been the hardest hit, having to turn to other sources like supplemental levies to fill the gaps. "To the credit of our voting public in many, many cases, they have approved many of those funding sources."
In fact, in 1999 just more than 40 school districts in idaho had supplemental levies. In 2012, that amount doubled, and there have been nine more levies in nine other districts since then.
Although Ferguson said he thinks his budget is better, talking about it won't do any good. He said he's really hoping for action.
"The larger issue is, we have been stripping away the revenue stream in a way that is, little bit here, little bit there, a little larger there, and now we're approaching half a million dollars taken out of the revenue stream since 1999."
Ferguson hopes you will take the time to look at the findings, located in PDF format on their website, www.idahocfp.com. He also said the way to get this budget through is to contact your local legislators, found at www.legislature.gov.