BOISE -- What some are calling "a stunning vote" will extend the Idaho Legislative Session a week or two later than expected. It was something that experts say they can't remember ever happening at the Idaho Statehouse, thanks to the surprising result of a vote on the education budget.
Wednesday morning, the big debate in the Senate was on the $1.3 billion education budget. The budget, like all others, is put together by JFAC, the Legislature's budget committee. Once they get to the floor, the budgets are almost never amended or defeated. This one already sailed through the House, and just needed to pass the Senate to go to the Governor's desk.
It was the last big hurdle to allow the session to end on Friday. But, forget about that.
"This budget ignores the will of the voters," said Sen. John Goedde (R - Coeur d'Alene).
Goedde, like other Republican Senators said the budget crossed the line into creating policy. They say it earmarked money for technology pilot programs, professional development, and teacher pay, which they say had elements of the defeated Students Come First plan.
"Policy drives the budget, not the other way around," said Sen. Cliff Bayer (R - Boise).
They said policy is the job of the education committees in the House and Senate, not JFAC.
After about two hours of debate, it was time to vote, and the bill failed by a razor-thin margin of one vote, 17-18.
"A stunning vote," said KTVB Political Analyst Dr. Weatherby, reacting to the news. "I can't remember a JFAC budget, particularly an education budget, being defeated on the floor of either the House or Senate."
The Legislature cannot adjourn without setting the education budget, which makes up about 40% of the state's general fund.
So, Weatherby says, "JFAC has to go back to the drawing board."
JFAC will meet in the next few days to try to create a budget that at least one more Senator will approve of.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna helped create, and supported this now defeated budget. He also goes back to the drawing board, and says he'll be burning the midnight oil tonight.
Weatherby says adding days to the session means more issues and bills that we might not have seen otherwise, will get attention. He says the expansion of Medicaid could be one of those issues.