Agriculture and natural resources are well-represented in the budget Idaho Gov. Brad Little presented to lawmakers Jan. 6, the first day of the 2020 legislative session.
Wolf management, important to the state’s livestock producers, is an example. Little recommends the legislature, for the fiscal year that starts July 1, approve $408,000 in dedicated and federal funds to conduct enhanced research on wolf populations and to evaluate methods of effectively managing them. Dedicated funds are largely from fees.
Little also recommends spending $400,000 for the state’s portion of the Wolf Depredation Control Board budget. The board works with USDA Wildlife Services. The governor’s office said this reflects the state’s ongoing commitment to the program, which the 2019 legislature made permanent by removing a five-year sunset clause.
Todd Grimm, Wildlife Services state director, said this amount, if approved by lawmakers, would be similar to amounts the legislature approved in 2014-18. Last year’s state expenditure was $200,000, reflecting a sizable balance remaining in the board’s account. The livestock industry and sportsmen also fund the wolf board.
Tight labor markets continue to challenge agriculture. Little recommends the Idaho State Department of Agriculture use $95,000 for what would be called "Farm Forward," to serve farm and ranch families as well as military veterans by helping them remain in, or enter, agricultural professions. The governor’s office said the state previously lacked a central program to aggregate federal, state and local resources.
ISDA has been designing a $10 million pathology laboratory focused on animal industries, a big contributor to the state's economy. Construction, planned just north of department headquarters in Boise, could start as soon as this spring and conclude a year later. Little recommends $2 million in dedicated-fund spending authority to match $8 million from the state Permanent Building Fund.
Little wants the state to keep investing in cross-jurisdiction efforts to manage lands on a large, landscape scale. In his annual State of the State and Budget Address, he said Idaho has chosen to lead in public-lands management.
“We have established a model of heightened collaboration with our federal land management partners under Good Neighbor Authority and Shared Stewardship,” he said, “two related initiatives that aim to reduce fire risk and create jobs in rural communities and proactively address the ongoing forest-health crisis.
“I am seeking continued investments in these important efforts to propel us forward,” Little said, “and show the rest of the country yet again that Idaho knows how to bring together diverse interests in a common pursuit, the health of our natural resources.”
He recommends lawmakers approve $1.2 million in total dedicated funds to continue the state’s Good Neighbor efforts to carry out forest-management activities in north Idaho.
Little recommends spending about $2.7 million in federal funds for projects associated with the Coeur d’Alene Basin Restoration Plan.
The governor also recommends spending $250,000 from the state General Fund to help protect and manage wildlife and watershed restoration projects on private and federal land. General Fund revenues are from state income taxes.
Little also wants lawmakers to approve funding, from various sources, for an additional brand inspector in the Twin Falls district, a federal lands coordinator in the state Office of Species Conservation, establishment of a broadband office within the state Department of Commerce and continued financial support for the Idaho Roadless Commission as well as a 10-year University of Idaho study of the sage grouse.
He proposes increased dedicated- and federal-fund spending authority for highway construction and maintenance, considered important as population growth and the movement of commodities continue.
The governor's annual budget calls for just over $4.05 billion in General Fund spending, up 3.75%, the smallest increase since 2014. It prioritizes public education and aims to boost the state's rainy-day funds. The total budget that includes general, federal and dedicated funds is $9.92 billion, up from $9.46 billion a year ago.
Little's budget for ISDA calls for nearly $11.9 million in general funds and nearly $28 million in dedicated funds, compared to about $12 million and $25.7 million, respectively, a year ago. The federal-funds portion is $6.4 million, up from $6.39 million.