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Education Budget Debacle Unveils Legislature Power Struggle

Times-News Editorial Board
March 29, 2013
Twin Falls Times-News

Days before the legislative session is supposed to end, Idaho still doesn't have a budget for education. But hey, at least we got that cursive writing bill out of the way.

We are surprised by Idaho Senate's vote that squashed a $1.3 billion education budget for the next fiscal year. But mostly we are disappointed the Legislature left such an important piece of business for the very end. In a session that gave us a state amphibian and a new definition for keg beer, it seems our legislators would have tackled education by now.

Without a budget, the legislative session will continue, costing taxpayers at least $33,000 a day in lawmaker per diem and other costs. That's $165,000 a week - or, to put it in education terms, enough money to pay the salaries of five new teachers.

So what do we get for our money? Political infighting.

The budget's failure to pass was a side effect of two men fighting for control. Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, wants his panel dictating policy decisions. But he doesn't hold the purse strings. That responsibility falls to Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, co-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

JFAC wrote the budget with directives included that many consider to be the committee overstepping its bounds and setting policy, like money specifically for pay for performance and technology upgrades. Goedde wants policy directives to come from his panel, so he spearheaded a campaign to vote the budget down.

Talk about misguided priorities. Sally Seventh-grader doesn't care whose making decisions. She just wants a good education. But lawmakers seem content to spend at least another week settling the feud between Goedde and Cameron.

Who wields the power? That's the teacher-salary-a-day question.

Maybe if education were properly funded in Idaho, they would have learned to share in kindergarten.

Originally posted at

The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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