JFAC puts public school budget on hold for week

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will not write a 2015-16 public schools budget proposal Thursday, as originally scheduled.

As the House Education Committee continues to wrestle with a teacher career ladder bill, JFAC is unlikely to set a public schools budget until next week.

Cameron, 2.17.15
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert

“Our goal is not to get out ahead of the policy committee,” JFAC co-chair Sen. Dean Cameron said at the conclusion of the budget-writing panel’s Wednesday morning meeting. “We could act, one way or the other on it, but it would probably be premature.”

The fate of the career ladder remains an unknown, and on Wednesday, House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt said he wants to see the bill rewritten. The outcome of the teacher salary debate has a direct effect on the budget JFAC ends up writing.

House Bill 222 — the original career ladder bill, shelved by DeMordaunt Wednesday — has a first year cost of $31.9 million, and would add nearly $15 million to the salary pool for 2015-16. But JFAC is usually reluctant to include new spending initiatives into a budget unless that initiative has passed either the House or the Senate.

JFAC will still meet Thursday, Cameron said. Budget-writers will take up one item of interest to K-12: the Department of Administration, the agency in charge of the now defunct Idaho Education Network high school broadband system.

Cameron does not expect JFAC to meet Friday, meaning the K-12 budget won’t surface until next week at the earliest.

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Wednesday’s news almost surely will push back the end of the 2015 legislative session. Legislative leaders had hoped to adjourn on March 27. But as a general rule of thumb, a legislative session usually adjourns about two weeks after JFAC finishes its budget-writing — partly because both houses need to pass all the spending bills that come out of JFAC.

More reading: Here’s my blog from Tuesday on the career ladder, and the interplay between the House Education Committee and JFAC.

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