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Posts published in “Day: January 7, 2008”

Statesman insiders?

We're regular and interested readers of inside-the-media blogs; having been there, local media gossip usually seems interesting. (Here anyway.) Oregon, for example, has the fine Oregon Media Insiders, which often delivers as promised. But apart from the specialized Idaho Radio News, there's been not much by way of blogging Idaho's other media, newspapers and TV.

So we're automatically paying some attention to workingpresstoo, a new blog apparently focusing most directly on the Boise Idaho Statesman. One immediate concern is its anonymity, so far at least. Another (related) is agenda; a commenter on the Spokesman-Review's Huckleberries offered, "Let me spell it out. This site was created as a pushback for Larry Craig against the media who yanked him squealing out of his restroom closet. Probably one of his staffers or ex staffers or an angry GOP operative."

Based on the early posts, that seems to be about right. (One of them includes a truly odd conspiracy theory about how the Statesman somehow set up the Larry Craig restroom sting in Minneapolis, so that it could break a gay-Craig story in such a way that it would be beaten on its own story. Huh?) But it seems to be in very preliminary shape, so we'll hold out some hope and check back. A serious blog on Idaho newspapering would be a welcome addition - and if this isn't it, maybe someone else will pick up on the idea.

ID: Zero base

Butch Otter

Butch Otter

Last year, the first state of the state speech by new Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter included a roster of odds and ends, but some of the big stuff - from running sideways with the Statehouse renovation to wiping out the Department of Administration - wasn't explicitly laid out; those things emerged later as people read the fine print in the budget address.

We may not know for a while yet whether that bit of history will recur, but Otter's second SOS speech does seem a little more notable than the first. Although at times a little more ideological than the first - he made sure to get those quotes in from the Federalist Papers and from Ronald Reagan - what jumps out is some of the particularly practical stuff he included.

And atop that list is something that you'd think more administrators (especially conservative ones) would support but few have proposed: Zero-based budgeting, something we've long endorsed and rarely seen.

Otter skimmed through it quickly enough in his speech (his whole talk was relatively brief, under 40 minutes) that listeners unfamiliar with the idea may have missed it entirely. At present, most governments including state governments budget mostly on "base-plus" - that is, with rare exceptions, starting the budget process with existing spending, and then tack on additions from there. Existing spending doesn't usually get a thorough look in the budgeting process, so that waste, overspending or even underspending rarely get properly addressed. "Zero-based budgeting" requires an item-by-item look at the whole budget, checking for need, efficiency and appropriate spending levels for everything. Because it is such a larg-scale effort, the idea usually is to break up something as large as a state government into pieces; Otter would divide state spending into six pieces, and rotate them over a six-year cycle. He would start the process with the 2010 fiscal year, which would mean the budget adopted by the 2009 legislative session. That would give budget planners the upcoming year to start to ramp up.