The 18-17 vote in the Idaho Senate on Wednesday was the result of an insurrection of lawmakers who concluded that the proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2014 infringed too severely on state education policy.
The education budget, the state's biggest single spending plan, had been considered the last major hurdle to ending the 2013 session. Republican Dean Cameron of Rupert, co-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, predicted that its failure could add 10 days to the session.
Others were a little more optimistic.
Although a Friday adjournment "isn't going to happen," Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said that an agreement can be reached by the middle of next week. Hill, R-Rexburg, anticipates public hearings on the disputed issues as soon as this week.
Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, argued that the budget wasn't properly vetted by his panel, many of whom worried the proposal included too much money for teacher pay and not enough for school districts to keep their lights on and buildings heated.
"We're pouring money into a broken system," Goedde said before the vote. "We have a responsibility to make a proper vote, not a hasty vote, and I urge you to send the budget back to the joint committee for further work."
The dustup underscores the long-simmering divide between some chairmen of Idaho committees whose job it is to vet policy bills and the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which puts together state spending plans.
Goedde is among those who believe that Cameron has overstepped appropriate borders.
Losing Wednesday's vote was a blow to Cameron, who defended the measure as "as good a budget as we've seen in a long time," while attempting to assuage concerns that his panel had overstepped its role.
He insisted that lawmakers from Goedde's committee, as well as House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, had adequate opportunity to weigh in. Last week, DeMordaunt said he was "certainly comfortable" with it.
"I'm proud to stand here with this budget," Cameron said, pointing out that the Idaho Education Association teachers union and Idaho School Boards Association both backed it. "It's a budget that has the support of all the stakeholders."
The budget had cleared the budget committee on a 15-5 vote, and it passed the House 52-16. But several provisions proved to be its downfall in the Senate.
For one, teachers were due about $12 million as part of a move to "unfreeze" Idaho's "steps and lanes" salary grid that provides state funding according to their years of service and education level, but had been suspended during recession-plagued 2010 and 2011 to save money.
The budget also included up to $21 million for districts to use as a reward for educators who improve student achievement and sought to direct $3 million for so-called technology pilot projects.
Goedde contended that the money for unfreezing the grid should have gone to professional development instead of new multistate standards for math and language arts that are coming in 2014.
Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, objected to the $21 million directed toward teacher merit pay, saying the money came without proper legislative consideration for how it would be awarded.
"If we're going to do any kind of pay-for-performance, we should do it right," Patrick said.