BOISE, Idaho -- Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter aims to balance Idaho's budget by cutting another $40 million from this year's spending by trimming public education and delaying cash for a livestock research center near Twin Falls that was due to get $10 million.
The Republican, who gave his State of the State speech Monday to open the 2010 Legislature, also wants to cut 400 state jobs, raise Idaho state parks fees and state funding to Idaho Public Television and six more agencies by 2014 in an overhaul of priorities.
He won't boost taxes, as minority Democrats had suggested, to help augment Idaho tax revenue that has fallen amid the worst economic downturn in 40 years.
"It is not our place to impose an additional economic burden on the people of Idaho who already are struggling, or to put a damper our economic recovery," Otter said to applause from majority GOP House and Senate members inside the newly refurbished Capitol.
For fiscal year 2011 starting in July, he proposed a budget of $2.46 billion, down from the original $2.5 billion appropriation for the current year ending June 30.
Lawmakers still must weigh in on Otter's proposals.
Already, minority Democrats are criticizing Otter for a budget that doesn't include an additional $82 million in tax revenue that the governor's chief economist, Mike Ferguson, forecasts will be collected during the course of 2011 as Idaho's economy emerges from the recession.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, accused Otter of taking advantage of the poor economy to pursue ideological goals of reducing government -- at the cost of necessary services.
"It's basically politics over people," Rusche said. "We're going to cram kids like sardines into classrooms, all to preserve $82 million."
Republicans, meanwhile, praised Otter's budget for prudence, pointing out that Idaho has been forced to cut its budget multiple times since 2008 during the middle of the year after tax revenue deteriorated.
"One of the things we've learned, it's easier to add money to budgets than it is to deal with holdbacks," said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, chairman of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Budget setting committee.
The governor aims to use most of $275 million remaining in reserve funds this year and in 2011 to help limit the depth of his austerity measures.
Otter proposed shielding Idaho's 115 school districts from a 4 percent holdback he ordered in September by using public education reserves. But he wants schools to cover all of a $27 million, midyear 2010 cut by using their own rainy day accounts, which GOP leaders in the House and Senate support.
If school districts don't have enough local reserve money to meet contract obligations this year, Otter said, they'll be able to borrow it from the state but have to dip into their share of 2011 funding to pay it back.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said some districts will struggle to meet the cuts. Still, state school reserves will be nearly depleted over the course of the next six months, so Luna indicated his agency has little choice than to help schools accommodate the cuts without doing permanent damage to Idaho's education system.
"We have to find a way for schools to do more with less," Luna told reporters.
Of the 400 state jobs Otter aims to eliminate, most are currently vacant, his finance chief, Wayne Hammon, told reporters before the governor's speech. It was unclear how many of the positions would accompany the deep cuts to Idaho Public Television, which employs about 58 part-time and 54 full-time employees, according to the state controller's office.
Under Otter's plan, public TV's annual general fund appropriation of about $1.7 million would be eliminated over the next four years. Peter Morrill, the general manager, would have to find alternative sources of funding through federal grants or private donations to keep his station afloat.
And management duties at the Department of Parks and Recreation, which oversees 30 state parks, would be folded into the Idaho Department of Lands and the Department of Fish and Game. Otter's office estimates these moves, along with fee hikes, would result in a projected $10 million savings to taxpayers once they are completed.
Other agencies where state funding will be eliminated under Otter's plan: the Human Rights Commission, Hispanic Commission, Independent Living Council, Developmental Disabilities Council, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Council and Digital Learning Academy.
"Those changes are meant to be permanent -- based on a philosophy of government that recognizes our responsibility to individual Idahoans rather than to government itself," Otter said.