Idaho Legislature’s joint budget committee will hear state education budget on Monday

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which is under new leadership, will begin to consider the state’s $4.5 billion budget next week

By: - January 11, 2022 4:46 pm
The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee room

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee room at the Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. The powerful committee is responsible for setting the state’s budget. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

A new committee co-chairman helped guide the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee through its first look at the proposed 2023 state budget on Tuesday.

Sen. Jeff Agenbroad, R-Nampa, who presided over JFAC’s first meeting of the 2022 legislative session, was appointed JFAC co-chairman in November after legislative leaders announced JFAC’s previous co-chairman, Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, is taking a leave of absence this session to help a family member dealing with medical issues.

Agenbroad previously served as a vice chairman of JFAC, so his promotion was not a surprise. 

JFAC is one of the Legislature’s largest and most powerful committees, and it will begin to put that power to the test as early as Monday when it considers the public education budget – one of the state’s largest. 

As the “joint” in its name suggests, the committee includes members of the Idaho House of Representatives and the Idaho Senate. The committee has 20 members, meets first thing each morning at 8 a.m. and is responsible for writing each component of the state’s $4.5 billion budget. 

Tuesday’s initial JFAC meeting was devoted to an overview of the budget proposals Gov. Brad Little unveiled Monday in conjunction with his State of the State address. 

Some of the big factors JFAC members will contend with this session are the state’s projected $1.9 billion surplus, increased revenues and Little’s calls for record investments in public school education, transportation and tax cuts. 

“You will see that there’s quite a few extra dollars over and above what we’ve normally budgeted in this committee and they are coming from different places than they have in the past as well, so our work is certainly cut out for us,” Agenbroad said during the meeting. 

Aside from Agenbroad, there was another change among JFAC’s ranks on Tuesday. Sen. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, who was appointed to serve as a substitute in Bair’s place this session, joined JFAC to bring it up to full strength at 20 members. VanOrden previously served in the Idaho House and was chairwoman of the House Education Committee. 

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When will Idaho’s 2023 state budget start coming together?

JFAC members will spend the next five weeks conducting budget hearings on each component of the state budget. 

Budget hearings start Monday and JFAC will hear one of the state’s largest and most complicated budget requests first — the public school budgets. 

Little set the tone on education in his State of the State address, calling for:

  • $105 million to increase the state’s contribution for teachers health insurance premiums. 
  • $104 million on the career ladder salary allocation system for a 10% increase in the money the state sends out for teacher pay.
  • $50 million in federal stimulus funds for Empowering Parents Grants to help Idaho families pay for education expenses for their children. 
  • $47 million to expand his kindergarten through third grade literacy initiative, which schools could use their share of the money to offer all-day kindergarten, reading coaches, a summer reading program or more. 
  • $17.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money to give all teachers a $1,000 bonus in 2022. 
  • A 5% change in compensation salary increase for school districts’ classified employees, including non teaching positions such as business and human resources staff and IT personnel.

Overall, Little called for the Legislature to increase education spending by about $300 million in 2023, representing a state general fund increase of 11%.

Next Monday, JFAC will consider Little’s request and hear from Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra. 

“The thing that I like about (hearing the education budget first) is that it is our biggest priority, and as the governor has mentioned in the past, it’s also our biggest moral priority, so it seems to me appropriate to start there. It really sets the tone for the rest of our budget hearings,” Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy said in an interview after Tuesday’s meeting. 

From there, JFAC members will spend about five weeks hearing budget proposals for each state agency and program. The target for JFAC to wrap up its budget hearings and transition to budget setting is Feb. 18.

Once JFAC writes the individual budget bills, those bills will go to the Idaho House and Idaho Senate for consideration. For a budget bill to take effect, it needs to pass both the House and Senate and avoid Little’s veto stamp. 

It takes a simple majority of votes to pass a budget bill in JFAC or on the House and Senate floor. 

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Watch the Idaho state budget take shape

Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee meetings and all legislative committee hearings are streamed live online, for free, using Idaho Public Television’s Idaho in Session service. 

JFAC meets daily at 8 a.m., and legislative committee meeting agendas are posted regularly at the Idaho Legislature’s website

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Clark Corbin
Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.

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