JFAC approves, forwards budget request
With limited discussion and only minor changes, the Legislature’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee approved ITD’s fiscal year 2009 budget proposed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.
In contrast to other budget-setting sessions that sometimes required a morning of deliberation, JFAC needed less than two hours to approve and send to the full House and Senate the department’s budget appropriation and the GARVEE Program request.
“The discussion among JFAC members shows both a thorough understanding of our budget and a strong interest in Idaho’s transportation system,” said ITD Director Pam Lowe.
JFAC segregated the budget request into five areas for separate consideration and approval:
JFAC voted independently on each of the five areas and the Governor’s $134 million GARVEE authorization request, but the “do pass” recommendation will be forwarded to the House and Senate as two recommendations – ITD’s appropriation and GARVEE authorization bills.
If passed by both Legislative branches and approved by Gov. Otter, ITD’s 2009 appropriation will be $492,472,900, $10.9 million less than the governor proposed.
Most of the $10,928,88 difference reflects an earlier JFAC decision not to implement the first year of Gov. Otter’s plan to transfer a portion of the Idaho State Police funding from the Highway Distribution Account (a primary source of highway construction funds) to the general fund.
JFAC’s decision not to authorize that shift accounts for $8,350,000 of the difference. The rest of the difference between Gov. Otter’s proposed transportation budget and the amount recommended by JFAC is related to a reduction in additional employee compensation and associated benefits.
Gov. Otter’s budget included salary increases of 5 percent; the Legislature is proceeding with a plan that would limit most salary increases to 3 percent. The Change in Employee Compensation package has yet to be finalized.
JFAC also made only a minor adjustment to the capital equipment request, which suggests a greater appreciation and understanding of ITD’s equipment buy-back program. In earlier budget presentations, Lowe emphasized the efficiency of purchasing heavy equipment and then selling it back to the provider, thus avoiding long-term depreciation and repairs.
The only change JFAC made in capital equipment was to reduce the governor’s request to purchase low-emission pick-up trucks under his Fossil Fuel/Greenhouse Gases initiative. Hybrid pick-up trucks are not available from most auto manufacturers yet.
With the $41,000 remaining from the governor’s plan, ITD will be able to upgrade the purchase of four sedans and a van from conventional fuel to an alternative energy source.
“Our JFAC budget-setting session went very smoothly, which is a refection on all of the people who had a part in preparing it,” Lowe said. “Presentations to the House and Senate transportation committees and to JFAC are a culmination of a lot of hard work and commitment. I appreciate all of the efforts our staff invested in the process.”