I just called Peter Morrill, director of Idaho Public Television, to discuss Gov. Otter's four-year plan to phase out state funding for the agency and got this message:
We are unable to personally answer your telephone call at this moment due to the fact that our staff is in a staff meeting to discuss the governor’s recommendation to cut funds for Idaho Public Television.
We'll talk to Morrill later on, but we asked Otter at his post-SOS press conference if he and First Lady Lori Otter were supporters of public television. He was not sure, but Lori Otter confirmed that they are not members of Idaho PTV, and she said they do not watch the station either.
Gov. Otter said: "I think it has a lot of value but I also think it has a lot of constituency that's willing to support it."
Morrill told NewWest.net (before going into his staff meeting) that they do have a lot of member funding, but that 82 percent of contributions come from Southwest Idaho, so in the absence of state support, that is where their focus would become.
“We’re not going to be dramatically cutting and still have a statewide system,” Morrill told NewWest.
As for the numbers, Otter is recommending a 27 percent reduction ($409,700) to IdahoPTV's state support this year and for the following three years. Morrill also told NewWest.net that the loss of state funds could affect some federal grants, costing the station even more.
Otter is also asking lawmakers to phase out state support for the Hispanic, Independent Living, Developmental Disabilities, Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Human Rights commissions, and told reporters that the commissions have already begun consolidation. They plan to move the commissions into the Borah Building, on State Street and consolidate office functions.
"Remember, a lot of the clientele for Aging, for the Human Rights Commission, for the Hispanic Commission, for assisted living, for those five, six agencies that we're looking at, a lot of them have the same clientele. This way it's a one-stop-shop," Otter said.
Otter is also planning to eliminate the Department of Parks and Recreation, though he has given Parks Director Nancy Merrill an opportunity to figure out her own funding source ... she has about a month to come up with a plan. Otherwise, the Parks department functions will be taken over by the Department of Lands and Fish and Game. The $6.3 million agency is zeroed out in Otter's 2011 budget.