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Kempthorne quietly signs
Higher education officials plan layoffs in wake of cuts
The Idaho Statesman
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne wrapped up work on major pieces of the
austere 2002-03 state budget, signing bills that cut $23 million from higher
education, deny poor adults preventive dental care and potentially eliminate
subsidized health care for some children in working poor families.
Without comment, Kempthorne signed the state budget that will provide just
$213 million in general tax support to the three universities and
Lewis-Clark State College for next school year.
The state originally promised the schools $236 million this year. That was
cut back to $229 million earlier this month as part of the budget-slashing
campaign to deal with a sliding economy and to preserve last year´s record
tax cut. The other $16 million was cut from next year´s appropriation.
Higher education officials have already initiated plans to lay off scores of
faculty and eliminate programs and classes along with significantly
increasing student fees to accommodate the worst budget crisis in two
The governor also signed the budget that reduces the state´s Promise
Scholarship for Idaho high school graduates with a “B” average from $250 to
$200 a semester — one of the Legislature´s contributions to the
Kempthorne proposed the higher education spending cut that was adopted by
lawmakers just as they supported his plan for the first-ever reduction of
$23.3 million in state support for public schools. Additional cuts were made
of nearly $1.9 million in agricultural research, almost $1.8 million in
community college support and $3.7 million in professional technical
The colleges also stand to lose tens of millions of dollars in campus
construction projects that will gradually be eliminated if state tax
collections during the final four months of the current budget year continue
to fall short.
Even some of the legislators who supported the budget conceded it took the
state backward, but they pledged to support recovering the lost ground as
quickly as possible once the economy turns around.
The Health and Welfare Department budget included the elimination of adult
dental coverage and a cap on spending for the Children´s Health Insurance
Program for working poor families.
Critics contend all the cuts are shortsighted, pointing out that curtailing
the subsidized health care for children will only shift the burden to county
property taxpayers under the indigent health care program.
The cuts in education, however, have been criticized most heavily because
opponents contend they undermine one of the state´s biggest assets — a
highly qualified work force.
And while Kempthorne has rejected the critics, he has spent much of the time
he has been traveling the state this week defending his priorities. “In this
state, in a tough time, we´ve balanced the budget, and done it without
increasing taxes,” he said.
Edition Date: 03-28-2002