[Vision2020] Otter cutting help for families ... AMID BUDGETSURPLUS
thansen at moscow.com
Sat May 19 11:33:43 PDT 2007
Mr. Schwaller stated:
"Oh Dear - I can't let this one get away. Some my find this to be
juveline and sarcastic, but other may find it on point. Time will
tell. . . .
'. . .the governor is eliminating $1.5 million in early-childhood and
family programs next month for fear of declining federal funds.'
I believe this is offered up as a "bad thing" however Mr Hansen
states, defending MSD's spending freeze:
'The Moscow School District has frozen its budget (and put several
teachers on notice, I might add) as a precautionary measure . . .
(because) It is what big boys and girls do. . . when the possibility
exists that the money they were promised . . .might not be realized.'
This spending freeze is however, a "good thing."
No, No, Mr. Schwaller.
Both budget cuts are wrong for the state of Idaho and the community of
MSD's spending freeze is a precautionary necessary limitation self-inflicted
to ensure classroom doors open next semester.
No, Mr. Schwaller, I DO NOT praise the necessity of this spending freeze
promulgated by a local bully's hissy fit.
On the other hand, Governor Otter's reduction of various state programs (to
include Head Start) shouldn't even be considered necessary or precautionary,
especially if one was to consider the state's $75 million surplus (see
below). But then, those funds used to line the pockets of special interest
groups has got to come from somewhere, so why not our children.
>From yesterday's (May 18, 2007) Spokesman Review -
Otter cutting help for families
Plan comes amid budget surplus
Betsy Z. Russell
May 18, 2007
BOISE - Idaho has a $75 million budget surplus, legislative leaders learned
Thursday, but the governor is eliminating $1.5 million in early-childhood
and family programs next month for fear of declining federal funds.
"It's a problem with the funding stream," said Jon Hanian, Gov. Butch
Otter's press secretary.
Among the cuts: $800,000 in federal welfare funds that Idaho now directs to
the Parents as Teachers program, a program that was highlighted in the "What
Works" feature as part of last month's Spokesman-Review series on child
abuse, "Our kids: Our business." Contract termination notices have gone out
to all providers receiving those funds, saying their contracts with the
state will end June 15.
It's not yet clear how far-reaching the impact will be; some of those
programs also have other funding sources, but smaller ones may not. The
program provides education and resources to parents of young children from
before birth to kindergarten.
"There has been no discussion about the merits of the program," said House
Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum. "You just don't, you don't do it
The Legislative Council, which includes legislative leaders from both houses
and both parties along with other senators and representatives, voted
Thursday to ask the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to investigate
what's in the state budget for Parents as Teachers and what the governor is
planning. The joint budget committee has its summer meeting June 4-6.
Otter also is eliminating the Executive Office for Families and Children and
most of the programs it oversees on June 15, and laying off the state
employees in that office. In addition to Parents as Teachers, the office
includes the Council on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, the Governor's
Coordinating Council for Families and Children, the Suicide Prevention
Council, and more; some of those functions will be moved into the Health and
Welfare Department. He's also considering eliminating $1.5 million in
federal funds that Idaho directs each year to the Head Start preschool
program, which lawmakers allocated to Head Start in 1999 to expand it to 300
more low-income children.
Lawmakers said they had no idea the governor was making the cuts until news
reports surfaced this week.
"What I know is what I read in the newspaper, and that's all," said Senate
President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs.
Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, asked, "The Legislature
passed the appropriation for the Parents as Teachers - how can that be
summarily dismissed and canceled?"
Legislative budget director Cathy Holland-Smith responded that the item is
within the child welfare appropriation of the state Health and Welfare
budget but didn't have a specific line item.
The program was started by former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne through an executive
order after lawmakers rejected it, but they've made no move to remove it
from the budgets they approved each year since then.
Jaquet said, "My parent educator told me that (former Gov.) Jim Risch signed
a yearlong contract with the federal government. They knew that they were
set for this year. . It was embedded in the budget."
Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, who serves on the council, said, "It just
raises a lot of questions, and I'm certain there are good reasons, because I
don't think the intention of the executive branch would be to do any harm."
Anderson added, "JFAC will get to the bottom of it."
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, JFAC co-chairman, who attended the meeting,
said, "I'm like Sen. Geddes - the only thing I've basically read is what's
been in the paper." Cameron said he was "very comfortable" with the
council's request. "I think we ought to have the opportunity to review it,"
He added, "There have been some legitimate questions over time about the
cost-effectiveness of the programs. . The executive branch does have the
authority to run their agencies and make sure that the money is handled
appropriately when we're not here in session."
Hanian said the governor's office has merely been reacting to a legislative
audit that suggested there could be problems directing federal welfare funds
to the Generation of the Child programs and Head Start.
Though the federal government hasn't objected to that funding in past years,
last year it objected to using Temporary Assistance to Needy Families money
for an immunization registry and for poison control, and the state audit
suggested these programs could be rejected next.
Idaho's legislative auditor, Don Berg, was questioned by the Legislative
Council on Thursday, and he said he hasn't even been able to publicly
release the audit yet because he's waiting for the JFAC co-chairs to sign
off on it.
"It's all alarming news to me," Berg told the council. The audit questioned
the use of the federal welfare funds, and the Health and Welfare Department
responded that they are allowable costs under the program. "And now it's a
surprise to have the governor pulling these things," he said.
Hanian said, "We're trying to find and identify what our options may be, in
terms of funding for some of these programs. We don't have a solution yet,
but what we have to do is get these programs off this funding source."
Hanian said that doesn't necessarily mean that all the programs will be
eliminated - some other funding could be identified.
"We've gotten calls here from people who think we're killing Head Start.
"That's just flat-out wrong," he said.
But the governor did decide to move ahead with the other cuts.
"The approach was, we're going to do that first and then, over the course of
the next couple weeks, figure out what our alternatives are in terms of
funding them," Hanian said.
The council's vote followed news that Idaho has an unexpected $75 million
budget surplus for this year, thanks to a huge overrun in individual income
tax revenues in April.
If that growth proves permanent, the state could have a $100 million surplus
in the budget lawmakers already have set for the next fiscal year, which
starts July 1.
So, you see Mr. Schwaller, both budget reductions hurt the people of Moscow
(out of precautionary necessity) and the state of Idaho (out of Gov. Otter's
self-serving special interests).
Seeya round town, Moscow.
"I think one of the best ways to support education is to make successful
private schools like Logos prosper through tax exemption."
- Donovan Arnold (July 11, 2005)
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