Senate budget debate highlights and reaction

The Senate sent shockwaves through the Statehouse on Wednesday by killing the 2013-2014 school budget 17-18.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene

The House passed the budget 52-16 on March 22, and lawmakers cannot adjourn for the year without passing a school budget.

During debate, opposition to the $1.308 billion budget came from Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene; Sen. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise; Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls; Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls; and Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett.

Only Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, spoke in favor of the bill.

Here are highlights of how it all went down, on the floor and immediately afterward, in lawmakers’ own words.

Highlights of floor debate:

  • Cameron: “This is not a perfect budget by anyone’s imagination. It’s not as good as in 2008 or 2009, but it’s as good a budget as we’ve seen in a while.”
  • Goedde: “My problem lies in some specific areas of the budget.”
  • Goedde: “Sen. Cameron and I have been friends since before I came to the Legislature.”
  • Goedde: “I’m going to suggest to you those (restored) steps (in the salary grid) are being funded with one-time money (Gov. Butch Otter) had directed to the governor’s task force.”
  • Goedde: “We have a need for additional professional development days. Common Core is right on the edge, and we have to be ready in the next school year.”
  • Goedde referencing Friday’s original adjournment target: “We are charged with doing the will of the people, (whether) it takes 83 days or 118 days.”
  • Thayn: “This session has been a dysfunctional education session. We’re at a crossroads of where we are going with education policy.”
  • Mortimer, who voted against the budget in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee: “I believe our districts need more flexibility than this budget bill allows them to have.”
  • Bayer: “Does this (budget) include parts of Students Come First or parts of the props? I say yes it does.”
  • Bayer: “It’s very, very difficult to navigate the budget. The wishes are always greater than the pie we have to divvy up.”
  • Cameron: “This is the largest budget from a general fund perspective that we will pass. It is the most important budget we will pass.”
  • Cameron: “The last place we hit in the public school budget (with spending cuts) was discretionary. The first place that got hit was salaries. This is the first step back.”
  • Cameron: “Let me be candid. If this budget fails what does that mean? It means we will be here for another 10 days.”

Post debate reaction:

  • Cameron, on what’s next: “I think at a minimum you’re adding another week to the session. Obviously rules can be bent and we can suspend on rules and we can try and push it as soon as possible. We’re kind of at an impasse here. If the other side thinks we’re just going to acquiesce to their ideas, I think they have got another thing coming. Remember that budget passed out of the committee on a 15-5 vote. It was a strong vote. Every single member of the House voted for it (in JFAC). Every single member of the minority voted for it. If we think that all of a sudden that means we’re going to back up and just acquiesce to putting everything down in discretionary, I don’t see us doing that.”
  • Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, who carried the school budget in the House: “I am sure JFAC will meet as soon as possible and we will come up with a budget that is in the best interest of the school children in Idaho. I think that (Senate vote to kill the budget) removes us from adjourning on Friday.”
  • House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle: “My guess is there was some concerns about the process as much as there was concerns about the spending. Our process here isn’t perfect, but I think there is a genuine effort to respect everybody and some people felt like lines were crossed. I think the budget is a good budget, so I hope we can go and settle some of the issues in terms of the process and get back to the budget. At the end of the day, we all want to adequately fund our schools and I know the Senate does as well. I think most of the discussion will probably be around the process. But there is probably some legitimate questions we need to address as well in terms of the funding.”
  • House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley: “I don’t want them to make some assumptions of where the House of Representatives is. I don’t want them to assume that we’re going to stand by for a wholesale re-write (of the budget).”
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, in a note to school districts: “It is clear what happened today had more to do with process than the content of the appropriation. As I have stated before, I supported the budget that passed the joint committee but understand the concerns some voiced today. Going forward, I remain committed to working with Idaho’s senators, representatives, and education stakeholders to craft a public schools budget that will meet the needs of Idaho’s students.”

Clark Corbin

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