Over one billion in stimulus dollars is flowing into Idaho over the next months. It is divided up into several different parts that can only be spent as directed.
--$90 million is dedicated to education (but schools are still being cut deeply because the money is mostly being kept in reserve.)
--$180 million in stimulus is specifically for roads and transportation.
--$400 million is provided for healthcare but healthcare is still being cut because we will pull back our $400 million in state healthcare dollars and spend it on other parts of the budget.
--$44 million in stimulus has been saved to the end. It is money that the Governor can choose to spend on anything he wants.
On the Joint Finance Committee yesterday we made a series of motions to spend the Governor's $44 million in flexible stimulus funds. In a fiscally and economically prudent motion which is bound to anger the Governor, Wednesday we broke the glass on these funds and used what is now about $7.2 million of the $44 million to restore part of the huge state employee pay cut.
The remaining millions could have restored a statewide vaccination program we cut from Health District budgets, it could have restored therapy hours for people facing mental health issues, restored services to people with disabilities, paid for school field trips we are eliminating statewide, put back huge cuts in teacher pay the Education Chairs are making, paid for teacher aids for teachers with huge classes of students, kept the lights and heat on in some districts or even put back an early teacher retirement program Tom Luna is eliminating.....
But no. We sat in the temporary Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee room, here in the old cement and marble Courthouse and, after Shirley Ringo and I moved to send $19 million to schools, the motion failed on a party line vote and that last of the flexible stimulus money was spent on roads.