Budget writers OK $2M for Constitutional Fund

Posted at 11:10 AM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 13:11:31-04

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Idaho budget writers have agreed to add $2 million into a special fund designed to defend the state's rights against the federal government, but has been spent almost entirely on losing legal battles.

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee voted 17-1 on Wednesday to replenish the currently depleted fund in July -- the beginning of fiscal year 2017. Rep. Phyllis King, a Boise Democrat, cast the only nay vote.

Legislative budget director Cathy Holland-Smith says the fund has about $230,400, but it faces outstanding bills totaling more than $535,000.

The Constitutional Defense Fund hasn't paid for a winning case since 1996, when Idaho reached a settlement with the federal government over nuclear waste storage and cleanup. The fund is overseen by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill.

The budget proposal still needs to pass through the House and Senate, but bills are rarely changed after leaving the powerful budget-setting committee.