Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Transparent and accountable budgeting

This week we did a media interview with Joe Parris of KTVB in Boise. As he was walking into the Capitol for the interview, a random citizen said to him, “Well finally! After 20 years, JFAC is finally exciting!”

What is JFAC and why is it exciting this year?

JFAC is the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee of the Idaho Legislature. We are the Co-Chairs. This is the committee that sets budgets for the State of Idaho. Unlike the federal government, Idaho’s Constitution requires us to set a balanced budget.

This year we implemented some changes to increase transparency and accountability for how your tax dollars are spent.

Not everyone is as excited as that citizen, but taxpayers definitely have reason to be.

Remember how the federal government boosted the money supply during the pandemic? Whether they printed it in the basement or borrowed from Japan or China, it was still inflated, one-time cash. Sure, it felt real because we could buy real stuff with those stimulus checks, even if the eggs did cost five dollars a dozen.

The same thing happened in government. Spending increased significantly. But just as “covid cash” exited your bank account, it is also exiting state government and we need to make sure that we are left with a state government Idahoans can afford. Constitutionally we can’t and we won’t end up like the federal government – spending beyond our ability to pay.

Recessions or economic slowdowns are a rotten time to raise taxes to pay for a government we bought during a pandemic that we can no longer afford.

So, for the first time, the Legislature has passed “maintenance” budgets separately from the new funding state agencies have requested.

In simple terms, maintenance budgets separate an agency’s base budget (all the money they received last year, plus increased costs for salaries and benefits) from its growth (new cars, new computers, new employees, new programs, etc.).

Some of the new things may be important and necessary for the agency to do its work, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that every request for new funding continues to be scrutinized by the committee. If JFAC ever sends a budget that has unnecessary spending of your hard-earned tax dollars to the House or Senate floors for the full Legislature to consider, we haven’t done our job.

A study conducted last summer by JFAC staff revealed that only about 19% of spending is reviewed during a legislative session. Beginning this summer and fall, that will change. JFAC will  begin systematic reviews of base budgets for all state agencies.

This perfectly legal, commonsense approach to budgeting means we are going to monitor government spending better than we’ve been able to before, and make sure we aren’t growing government beyond Idahoan’s ability to pay for it.

Please go to our new website to learn more or visit www.Transparent.Idaho.gov to see how your tax dollars are being spent.

Co-authored by Rep. Wendy Horman and Rep C. Scott Grow. 


Rep. Wendy Horman and Rep. C. Scott Grow

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