The Idaho Legislature's budget writers started the week off with major cuts to the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs. The agency, which employs three full-time personnel and advocates for economic and social equity, saw its budget slashed by 5.5 percent.
"This commission represents 10 percent of the state's population," said Democratic Sen. Nicole LeFavour of Boise. "I'm afraid that we're sending a message of disrespect."
Nonetheless, LeFavour ended up on the losing end of a 14-5 vote to cut the budget down to $246,000. Since 2009, the Hispanic Commission has already seen its funding reduced by 21 percent.
Also this morning, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved $10.7 million in funding for the state's lottery program. The dedicated funds come from lottery ticket sales.
"It's unfortunate that we have a hodgepodge of agencies with dedicated funding," said LeFavour. "And of course, they can go ahead an purchase fancy new laptops or computers. Yet we have agencies that don't generate their own revenue, so they're in an extremely grave situation."
JFAC also considered a new budget for the Idaho State Liquor Division. In a proposed plan for fiscal year 2012, 34 of the state's busiest liquor stores would be allowed to stay open until 9 p.m. (beyond the current 7 p.m. closing time). The move would cost the state approximately $455,000 but could generate as much as $2 million in new revenues. After some debate on the issue, JFAC members decided to delay a final vote on the issue until Tuesday.