Announcement came this week of an anticipated shortfall in state revenue and Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter put state agencies on notice to prepare budget cuts of 1, 2 or 2.5 percent for current-year budgets. The 5.96 percent drop in expected government revenue, some $175.5 million less than legislators expected when they set budgets last winter, is not being blamed exclusively on the economy, however.
Two bills that passed earlier this year—a much debated grocery tax credit and a unanimously passed change in the way depreciations are tallied—have cost the state quite a bit more than expected.
According to the Division of Financial Management, the Grocery Tax Credit amounts for $23.5 million of the shortfall and the bonus depreciation bill has cost $38 million more than expected.
The rest of the shortfall is blamed on a slowing economy, though Idaho's economy has not kept pace with the national doldrums.
Otter's official statement: "I am hoping for the best, I am absolutely hoping for the best. But I am planning for the worst. And I think the 2.5 percent represents the worst. And the best would be that we continue to go through the budget year without any kind of reduction or any kind of a hold back. But rather than trying to manage through a crisis, I think that if we see things that are problematic, I want to have a plan to be able to go forward with that."
And echoing the bad economic news, BW intern Mathias Morache reports:
The Idaho Statesman announced Sept. 16 that it will lay off 15 more employees, including six newsroom staff members. This comes as the second wave of layoffs implemented by The McClatchy Company, the owner of the Statesman, in a plan to cut 1,400 jobs nationwide.
This move, according to McClatchy, will save the company $100 million in the next year. Nonetheless, amid plunging stocks, CEO Gary Pruitt received an annual $800,000 bonus and company executives used the company jet to travel to locations a one-hour drive away.
Idaho Statesman publisher Mi-Ai Parrish was not available for comment, but described the situation in the announcement as "a sad day." She went on to say that the Idaho Statesman, "... along with so many other companies in the valley, [is] feeling the effects of a challenging economic climate. This is a painful but necessary step to position us for a successful future, to continue our vital public service mission as Idaho's largest source of news and information."
war in Iraq
U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, 4,164 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,377 in combat and 787 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 30,642. In recent days, six U.S. soldiers died.
Since President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 4,014 soldiers have died.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense
IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 87,558 and 95,557.
COST OF IRAQ WAR: $555,396,438,085