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Inside the Statehouse: House kills higher education budget again, sending session into next week

The budget failed 23-47.
Posted at 6:48 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 01:31:08-04

BOISE, Idaho — Even though Governor Brad Little and other Republican lawmakers recently said they are hoping for Sine Die soon because of the public health threat, the House’s GOP supermajority voted again Monday to kill certain budgets -- a move that will extend the 2020 session to at least another week.

This included the higher education budget, which would have provided $307 million in general fund money for Boise State University, Idaho State University, University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College.

The legislature cannot adjourn for the year without passing the higher education budget. It is, however, among the budgets the governor says he hopes will be expedited in an effort to adjourn the session. But not so fast, says some lawmakers.

“This is one that’s not been killed once — but it’s been killed twice," said Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa.

GOP house representatives like Crane voted to kill the higher ed budget for the second time Monday with 47 votes against it, and 23 in favor. He says the universities and colleges need to realize that they are "[getting] serious about cutting budgets."

“And yet we continue to see escalating costs in tuition every year," said Crane.

This means the process must start over: the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee redraws the budget, sends it to the education committee, it gets approval, and then it goes to the House again.

“The only obligation we have by the Constitution is to set the state budget," said Crane. "And because there’s a health crisis that’s going on, that doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to spending, and say, 'You know what? We’re gonna spend frivolously!' No. We still have to do prudent and wise investment of those state taxpayer dollars."

Additionally, Crane called Boise State President Dr. Marlene Tromp’s decision to hire a vice president of diversity a "direct affront to us -- to me personally as a legislator."

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, defended university leadership, and said this will harm students and graduating classes to come.

"I mean the universities froze tuition, and so the universities really stepped up to the plate and they all agreed that they were gonna freeze tuition this year," said Rubel.

Rubel reiterated that she is an "advocate of getting out of [the legislative session]" as soon as possible, given the public health crisis.

"I’m hoping that we’re going to adjourn very soon now. But it certainly doesn’t help the cause, when they blow up the budgets for the entire state higher education system!”

The state previously set a 60% target for what percentage of the population they hope will have a secondary degree or diploma.

The budget for the Division of Building Safety was also killed by the House today, sending the process back to the beginning for that budget as well.

6 On Your Side will keep you updated on the progress of these budgets and on the health and safety of Idaho State Legislators and the public.