In delivering a warning to his department heads, Gov. Butch Otter is also giving a heads-up to lawmakers.
Dont expect an unabated flow of federal dollars into state government.
Otter is asking his agency directors to come up with a contingency plan for absorbing a 20 percent cut in federal dollars. Theyre supposed to report back by Aug. 1.
I dont have any problem with this exercise, even if a 20 percent cut is an unlikely worst-case scenario.
By asking state agencies how they would go without help from Uncle Sam, Otter is shedding a little light on a conveniently forgotten reality of budgeting: Idaho depends on federal dollars more than its fed-bashing citizen lawmakers ever care to admit.
The numbers are startling and far-reaching. A few examples:
Æ Idahos Medicaid budget is $1.91 billion, with nearly $1.24 billion coming from the federal government.
Æ The Idaho Transportation Department gets $265 million of its $532 million budget from Uncle Sam.
Æ The Department of Fish and Game gets $47 million of its $93 million budget from the feds.
When lawmakers and reporters fixate on the state budgeting process, the debate usually centers on the general fund, money derived mostly from state sales and income tax collections. But the general fund for 2012-13 will come in at about $2.7 billion, and federal dollars account for $2.3 billion. In the case of ITD and Fish and Game, federal dollars help these agencies function without any general fund dollars.
Thats the dirty little secret of the Idaho budget. The state depends on federal dollars to bankroll many programs. And Idaho, ultimately, has very little control over what actually rolls in.
So, if Idaho were to suddenly lose 20 percent of federal funding a number a little south of $500 million what can the agencies do without, and what should legislators replace through other funding sources?
Its good that the conversation is beginning, at least at the agency level. But it should be a bigger part of the legislative budgeting discussion, too.
ALL EPA, ALL THE TIME
Its been a week to beat up on the Environmental Protection Agency.
On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Simpson hailed his House appropriation subcommittees bid to slice $1.4 billion out of the EPA budget and rein in what he called out-of-control regulation. Simpson played the role of the appropriator who protesteth too much.
There are those who will no doubt try to portray Republicans as not supporting clean water, clean air and a clean environment, but such assertions are simply untrue, said Simpson. The reality is that the EPA has received unprecedented and unsustainable increases in recent years.
Then came Thursday. Sen. Jim Risch issued a news release focusing on just one of the 73 proposed amendments to the Farm Bill, aimed at restricting the EPAs ability to conduct aerial surveillance over farms and businesses. Fifty-six senators supported the amendment, but it needed 60 votes to pass.
I am very disappointed that we failed to prohibit secretive flights by the federal government over private property. If your property is going to be searched, you have a right to know about it. The EPA has not been willing to provide information to property owners about these flights, said Risch. I am also concerned about the storage and use of images captured from these flights. It is unclear if strong standards are in place to prevent their misuse.
Can it be any surprise that, as the Idaho Republican Party holds its 2012 convention this week in Twin Falls, one of the proposed resolutions calls for disbanding the EPA? Simpson and Risch do nothing to quell the anti-EPA furor within their partys ranks.
A ROOTING INTEREST
I dont know Barry Peterson or Gayann DeMordaunt, the two candidates for state Republican Party chairman.
I dont have a vote in todays race for party chairman. Heck, thanks to the GOPs closed primary, and the paper trail that goes with it, Im just another one of those Idahoans who no longer feels welcome or willing to participate in primary elections.
But that doesnt mean I don't have a rooting interest.
Check out Petersons take on the race, as reported by John Miller of The Associated Press.
Shes a nice kid, Peterson said of his opponent. I told her, I want to wish you well, but I'm going to kick your tail.
Hey, he wouldnt be dull. What more could a pundit want?
Kevin Richert: 377-6437, Twitter: @KevinRichert
By telling state agency heads to plan for deep budget cuts, Gov. Butch Otter draws attention to a dirty little secret: Idahos dependency on federal funding.