UPDATE: On Wednesday, Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said after further review, she’d concluded that the governor was following the law, and she shouldn’t have used the wording she did to describe the matter earlier. “They — the governor and DFM — did follow the law as it was passed, and we, the Legislature, made a costly bill drafting error,” Keough said. “As I have reread SB 1206 and found the drafting error, I would like to retract my use of ‘follow the law’ and apologize for my mischaracterization.”
Earlier reporting continues below:
Lawmakers last year passed a “surplus-eliminator” bill to split any year-end surplus between the state’s main rainy-day account — the Budget Stabilization Fund — and road projects funded through the Idaho Transportation Department.
But due to a drafting error, the half of the transfer planned for ITD didn’t happen. That means $27.5 million wasn’t transferred to ITD’s Strategic Initiatives Fund — and Gov. Butch Otter’s budget proposal doesn’t include making that transfer.
The oversight came up Tuesday morning as Jani Revier, Otter’s budget director, briefed the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. It means if JFAC wants to complete the transfer that lawmakers approved last year, it’s starting out $27.5 million behind compared to the governor’s budget proposal.
Under questioning from both co-chairs of JFAC, Sen. Shawn Keough and Rep. Maxine Bell, Revier had this explanation for why the governor’s budget proposal doesn’t account for fixing the transfer: He doesn’t like the idea.
“The governor does not support general fund for roads,” Revier told lawmakers. “He has had a long-standing position on this. He is not going to recommend a general fund transfer.”
“There was a drafting error, we acknowledge there was a drafting error, but the transfer did not occur,” Revier added.
Keough had expressed concern about the transfer Monday, saying, “That bill passed, and so there’s this commitment in law that we share that surplus money in the way that was envisioned by that bill. So we’ll have to account for that someplace else.”
That sentiment still seemed to be in effect Tuesday.
“We made the transfer, but didn’t put the spending in,” Bell said. “We, I assume, will put the spending — I think the roads are still full of potholes.”