This past week in the legislature, we saw a parade of education department heads and university presidents come before JFAC, each one subject to the Governors 2% budget hold back, right off the top. Then, the universities decided to not charge tuition this year, reducing their income substantially.

*photo courtesy KIVI

The Governor has suggested a .4% increase in General Fund spending for universities and it is clear that these are tough times for them, even with only about a third of their funds coming from the state General Fund.

One thing we have noticed is that when jobs are plentiful, kids don’t go to college and that ultimately creates a lack of funding. But we also know that nothing stays the same, so when there are a lack of jobs, the students will start enrolling again. We can’t keep going up and down when it comes to funding. we must find a way to stay consistent all the time.

One of the justifications for a lack of funding is that during periods of high employment, enrollment is lower at higher education institutions. We have to be aware that while enrollment isn’t good now, when hard times come that will change and more people will continue their education. That is why it is important we find a balance to avoid the inconsistent patterns.

Academic institutions can’t manage money

That’s what we hear so often and it can be true, however let me tell you the story about Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC)
President Dr. Cynthia Pemberton.

While most university presidents lamented the budget cuts and lack of funding while trying to be good soldiers, Dr. Pemberton took a different approach.

She told us JFAC members that she had seen the trend of lower enrollment coming and had asked her staff to prepare budgets for 2%, 5% and 7% cuts. She looked ahead, predicted potential problems and was prepared with solutions! The usual approach is to wait until the disaster appears, then hope for the best.

JFAC left our meeting with Dr. Pemberton and her approach, very impressed. Maybe she can be a trend setter for Idaho’s other colleges and universities, manage schools more like a business.

That doesn’t mean it is easy at LCSC, it just means they have a manager who will be prepared for both the good times and bad.


Idaho Ag All Star

Food Producers of Idaho held its annual recognition banquet to recognize legislators who consistently support agricultural issues. I was recognized again this year as an Ag All Star! There were much fewer legislators recognized this year, so this is a true honor.

Agriculture is so instrumental to District 7. I will continue to be a strong voice for Idaho ag and our rural Idaho economy.



Time for bad and sad news

A recent report does not shed a positive light on Idaho County and our suicide rate.

It turns out that Idaho County suicides per capita is the highest in the state and three times the national average. As many of you know, I have worked to make the suicide effort in Idaho more accountable, and therefore more successful.

The report focused on suicide rates from 2012 to 2016. We are moving forward with a new effort that began last year and I look forward to changing the narrative and bring better news for our community and our state, soon. This is a very serious issue that I do not take lightly.