By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
The trailer bill for a vetoed property tax bill may not provide funding for public defense for the upcoming fiscal year.
Gov. Brad Little vetoed the property tax bill on Monday, but the House voted to override the veto. The Senate may vote on whether to override the veto later today.
The original property tax bill, House Bill 292, would have double-funded public defense for fiscal year 2024 by sending $36 million to a newly established state public defense fund and $34 million to counties for public defense. The Legislature’s original intent with the state public defense overhaul was to set up transition funding for counties while transitioning to the newly overhauled system.
But the trailer bill, meant to address some of the issues Little cited if the Legislature does override the veto, funds public defense for counties for fiscal year 2023, and crosses out 2024.
The joint budget committee funded the state public defense overhaul through House bill 367, which provides $4.3 million for the set-up of the State Public Defender for fiscal year 2024. On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate sent that appropriation back to the Senate Finance Committee without comment.
The statewide public defense office isn’t meant to take over all indigent defense until 2025, with the state providing counties with transition funding to continue providing services until then.
But as written, trailer bill House Bill 367 may undo that funding. On page 6, line 20 of the bill, the year “2024” is crossed out of a paragraph outlining distribution of public defense funds to counties, before an operational State Public Defender office is established in 2025.
Fiscal year 2024 starts on July 1, 2023.
Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian and sponsor of the tax bills, emphasized to Idaho Reports that the legislation still gives $36 million to public defense in House Bill 292. When asked how the money will get to counties before the State Public Defender’s office is established in 2025, he said the legislature could potentially set up that transfer, or the governor’s office could transfer the money.
Monks said he was frustrated that so many issues came up with the bill after it passed both the House and Senate, even though the language in the bill has been public for weeks.
“We keep having these things come up that we go and address, and then a new something comes up,” Monks said.
Idaho Reports has put in a request for comment with the Legislative Services Office’s Budget and Policy Division.
This story was updated 5:14 pm to clarify the timeline of the State Public Defender set-up, and again at 5:43 pm to provide an update on the appropriation for the State Public Defender.