During this morning’s meeting of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), establishment Republicans teamed up with Democrats to submit new budgets that included both the maintenance portion and the new line item increases.

As you recall, this year JFAC split agency budgets into a maintenance portion — basically what they needed last year to keep the lights on and the doors open — and new line item increases, as requested by the governor. This would allow the Legislature to fulfill its constitutional duty to fund the government while allowing debate on the increases.

Moderates and leftists, who seem to want to grow government infinitely, don’t like that. They want to force legislators to take up and down votes on agencies as a whole, without allowing them to object to any part. This means that if a fiscal conservative disagrees with a line item increase, they either have to vote yes anyway, or vote no and risk being accused of wanting to defund police or other essential services.

JFAC passed the maintenance budgets several weeks ago, and people were wondering when they would reach the House and Senate floors. They were finally read across the desk yesterday, only for this morning’s coup in JFAC to throw the whole thing into doubt.

Republican Senators Van Burtenshaw, Dave Lent, Kevin Cook, Julie VanOrden joined Democrat Senators Janie Ward-Engelking and Rick Just, along with Republican Representatives Matt Bundy, Britt Raybould, Rod Furniss, James Petzke, Clay Handy and Democrat Brooke Green (through her substitute) to pass new budgets that included both the maintenance portion and new line items, overriding attempts by conservatives to stop them.

They chose to do this on a day that JFAC co-chair Wendy Horman was absent due to illness.

Note that most, if not all, of the turncoat Republicans are members of the so-called Main Street Caucus.

This sets up a showdown on the chamber floors. House Speaker Mike Moyle warned the body this morning that they should review Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure over the weekend because next week could get interesting.

Will the big spenders in both parties succeed in eradicating the new transparent budgeting process, or will fiscal conservatism finally win the day in the Idaho Legislature? Stay tuned for updates as this story plays out.

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