Gov. Dirk Kempthornes message to legislators, and indirectly
to Idaho citizens and state agencies, this week spoke of promise
Promise because the states economy appears to
be recovering and the state budget appears to be on stable
Prudence, or in Kempthornes words restraint,
because legislators need to approach the FY2005 spending package
with caution. With the end in sight of several major short-term
revenue sources (including the planned rollback of state sales
tax to 5 percent in 2006), legislators need to take a long-term
approach to budgeting.
Combining the State of the State Address and the Budget Address
normally distinct and separate messages confirms
that the economy is foremost on everybodys minds, says
Julie Pipal, manager of Budget, Policy and Governmental Relations
for the transportation department.
The move to deliver one address instead of two was
the right thing to do, given our circumstances
look at what he did with the budget as his commitment to maintain
a strong state government, she said.
State of the State addresses traditionally are goal-driven
while budget messages are more mechanical, Pipal
explains. Gov. Kempthornes approach this year confirms
the two are interconnected. A vision for 2005 or 2006 will
depend on the mechanical budget decisions legislators
make this session.
How we handle the mechanical will determine the programs
and successes of the coming two years, Pipal explains.
The governors approach shows he is looking out
for the health of state government.
It is clear that state agencies, to the extent they
can, should take care of state employees. The Transportation
Board has already made that commitment with the merit plan
that is currently being implemented for employees.
The board voted in late 2003 to award merit increases of
1-4 percent to ITD employees who have good performance reviews.
The increase is scheduled to take effect late this month and
will be funded through $2 million in salary savings the past
What are the implications of Gov. Kempthornes message
for the Idaho Transportation Department and its employees?
As an agency, we fared very well. Our task now is to
continue to manage for the long-term,: Pipal said. We
need to keep doing the things that weve been doing
to do more with less.
The governors budget recommendation for ITD is virtually
unchanged from the departments initial FY05 request.
Kempthornes budget package requests spending authority
of $425,910,300 for the department only $16,400 less
than ITDs request. That does not constitute a budget
reduction, Pipal explains, it merely represents a change in
Only three days into the session, two ITD bills already are
in the process, which is unusual, Pipal said. One bill will
make permanent the transfer of the commercial truck audit
function from ITD to the Department of Revenue; the other
governs how contact bid disputes are resolved.
The quick start reflects the general mood of the Legislature:
lawmakers appreciated the merging of State of the State and
budget messages, and are ready roll up their sleeves, Pipal
The mood of the Legislature is lets get
down to business.'
Following the longest session in state history, Legislators
are committed to keeping the 2004 session as short as possible.