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COVID-19 Hits Idaho Budget, Especially Education, Hard

This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

Republican Gov. Brad Little is wasting no time in preemptively cutting $200 million from Idaho's budget due to the economic fallout of COVID-19.

Little has asked all state agencies to slash their spending plans by 5%. That's on top of a 2% cut he pushed for prior to the global pandemic to help weather a future recession. Education will be hit particularly hard with freezes to K-12 teacher salaries and potential lower enrollment at the already cash-strapped public universities.

Revenue for fiscal year 2021, which began July 1, is forecast to plunge between $349 million and $585 million – mostly because of projected personal income and sales tax slumps.

Idaho's economy has historically been more volatile than the rest of the country's, but an analysis from Moody's Analytics says that doesn't necessarily mean it'll take longer for the state to recover.

Idaho has comparatively lower fixed costs, such as its pension obligations and retiree health care, as well as sizable reserves. The state's various rainy day accounts totaled $635.6 million on July 1, with the governor wanting to spread out any spending over several years.

"That doesn't make the cuts any less painful, but in the annals of relativity, we will get through this better than most states," said Alex Adams, Little's budget chief.

James Dawson is a reporter for Boise State Public Radio.

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

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