When Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter delivered his budget a couple of weeks ago, he told the legislature that he proposed some major changes in some smaller agencies. The big raw dollar cuts may have come in places like public schools and colleges and universities, but he proposed what amounted to elimination of a number of others.
Operations of the Department of Parks and Recreation, he said, should be moved to the Department of Lands and some registration activities to the Department of Fish & Game.
And he proposed a "Four‐year phase out of General Fund" - meaning that money other other than state funds would have to be found to maintain current operations - for Idaho Public Television, the Human Rights Commission, the Hispanic Commission, the Independent Living Council, the Developmental Disabilities Council, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Council and the Digital Learning Academy.
He also said, as he has in budget matters before, that he's open to legislative alternatives. Two weeks on, looks like he'll have to be open to alternatives: Most of those slash-outs themselves look headed to the trash heap. Some of that is because these programs turn out to have actual supporters around the state. But part of it is because someone in the Otter Administration seems not to have done their homework.
The Department of Parks & Recreation, for example, has reasons for existence that can't simply be reorganized away. It was created in the early 60's to meet the terms of a massive gift to the state by the Harriman family - the Harriman park in Fremont County, possibly the finest of the state parks. The Harrimans insisted on a specific kind of professional management of the land, and Governor Robert Smylie rammed through the new parks department to meet the terms. The state has gotten other gifts through the years too under the assumption that a professional parks department - not a lands department, which has a valid but different sort of mission - would take charge of them. Remove the parks department, and the Harriman state park is put into risk.
After much discussion of all this, Otter on Friday appears to have backed off the proposal, instead settling for a package of other parks-related cuts and fundraising. He acknowledged the mistake, explicitly: “The whole idea that we were going to eliminate the parks department was dead wrong."
Others will be hard to do away with, too. (more…)