Legislators take deeper look at Otter's budget plan

AP

BOISE — Lawmakers assigned to Idaho's budget writing committee on Tuesday got a deeper look into into Gov. Butch Otter's proposed budget and his priorities that focus on career training, hiring additional probation and parole staff and other public safety programs.

In his State of the State address Monday, Otter focused on some of his chief priorities for the next fiscal year, including public education funding, tax relief, career technical training and improving mental health facilities for adolescents.

During the first meeting of the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Jani Revier, administrator for the Division of Financial Management, delved into the details of Otter's proposed $3.46 billion budget.

The presentation gave lawmakers an opportunity to consider some of Otter's other priorities for public safety, prisons, natural resources and workforce development.

PUBLIC SAFETY AND MENTAL HEALTH

The governor's budget proposes setting aside about $3.4 million for public safety proposals, including a recommended $2.54 million to hire 24 new probation and parole officers.

The demand for probation and parole officers has increased after the state's Justice Reinvestment Initiative was passed in 2014. The legislation has led to the release of more non-violent, drug and property offenders, placing hundreds of additional offenders out on community supervision.

The governor called on the Legislature to approve another $11.2 million for Health and Human Services to fund treatment for the more than 7,300 moderate to high-risk probation and parole offenders with mental health needs.

Otter is recommending $421,000 for new police drug detection dogs and $564,000 for the Idaho State Police to use for its crash reconstruction teams.

Lawmakers are also being asked to support a $159,000 recommendation for the Idaho Department of Correction to pay for a clinician who can meet the mental health needs of inmates and an education instructor at the state's maximum security lockup.

NATURAL RESOURCES

In his proposal, Otter also addressed the strain on Idaho's environment and at-risk species, asking for around $3 million to help those programs.

Of that funding, Otter called on legislators to provide $750,000 to continue funding the initiative to protect the state's sage grouse. Another $750,000 would be allotted to the Good Neighbor Authority, a program that is used for forest management on National Forest Service's lands. The funding will pay for another senior forester, among other demands.

The Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program, which allows the state to take authority from the Environmental Protection Agency, is also in need of funding, according to Otter's budget proposal. He suggested $1.28 million be allotted to hire additional staff.

To better train Idaho workers to meet the demands of employers, the governor is recommending spending for several programs, including $5 million in grants for the Workforce Development Training Fund.

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