Friday, September 25, 2009

Dem lawmakers respond to budget holdbacks

Democratic leadership in the Idaho Legislature today commended Governor Butch Otter for directly tackling Idaho’s immediate budget issues and for involving Democratic legislators in his deliberations. At the same time, House Minority Leader John Rusche and Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly questioned whether the Governor’s plan will result in the best outcome for Idaho’s future or preserve as many Idaho jobs as possible.

In response to the Governor’s announcement this morning of significant cuts to state government, Democratic leaders raised concerns about the soundness of the Governor’s plan to carry over significant rainy day funds and federal stimulus dollars while cutting investments important to Idahoans and Idaho’s future.

“We appreciate the fact that the Governor took the time to brief Democratic leaders on the current economic situation, and to solicit our ideas on potential solutions,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche. “While the Governor’s proposal may respond to the immediate financial crisis, we are concerned that the proposal falls short in adequately preparing for Idaho’s economic future. The revenue shortfall is a symptom. Unemployment is the disease. For our economy to recover, Idaho needs to step up efforts to build jobs.”

In less than two years, Idaho went from fourth in the nation in job gains to being among the states with the greatest job losses. State coffers have seen a corresponding drop in revenues.

“Idaho businesses are closing, we’re bleeding jobs, people are losing their homes, and families are struggling to keep up with increasing tuition,” said Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, as she questioned the Governor’s cuts and his decision to pass over significant reserve and federal funds.

“The reserve and economic stimulus funds come from our taxpayers. That money doesn’t help our economy if it sits in a savings account," Kelly added. "We should be maximizing our use of federal funds and more aggressively accessing our reserve funds to save jobs, create jobs and help build a future for our children. Instead the Governor’s proposal further erodes services at a time when Idahoans need them most.”

“It is a matter of values and priorities,” Rusche said. “Like other Idahoans, we realize that building our economy and jobs is a priority. We hope that our colleagues in the majority party will recognize those values and work with us to create a fiscally responsible plan and the best outcome for Idaho’s families and businesses in the short term and in the long term. We stand ready to work with the Governor and our colleagues in the Legislature to solve the challenges facing us.”