BOISE -- State political experts can't remember a time when a budget set in finance committee was killed on the floor, but on Wednesday, that's what happened with the $1.3 billion education budget voted down in the Senate.
Going into the day, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna told KTVB his office knew the vote would be close either way, and he believes some senators were swayed either way during debate.
Now, he says he's got a late night working with legislators to figure out the next move and get the majority on the same page.
By the end of the day, my hope and my goal is to get everybody in the room and come up with a plan going forward. We need to do that today, Luna said. I think we know what the issues are. I think we know what the process concerns are. Let's get everybody in the room that has those concerns and get those discussed and get them aired and move forward.
The final vote on the Senate floor was 18-17 with the majority saying no to the JFAC-approved budget. Many said it was because certain elements written into the budget were for other committees, like education to decide.
Policy drives the budget, not the other way around, Senator Cliff Bayer (R - Boise) said.
Some criticized some of those finance committee approved budget items as ways to bring back elements of the voter-rejected Students Come First plan.
To the extent that the technology brings computers into the classroom and that achievement awards are pay for performance, this budget ignores the will of the voters who repealed education reform in November, Senator John Goedde (R- Coeur d'Alene), who also chairs the education committee, said.
Luna said he is prepared to work with lawmakers to figure out how to separate education items into appropriate committees.
I think it's obvious that the problem with this budget wasn't as much the content but the process, and I understand that, Luna said.
Initially, leaders hoped for and predicted an end to the session on Friday, but this will likely delay the session at least a couple more days.
I just can't go home with as severely flawed bill as this budget bill is. I feel very strongly about that, Senator Jim Patrick (R- Twin Falls) said.
Luna believes the education budget items could be worked out relatively quickly because the vote was so close. He says they could be done as soon as Monday or Tuesday with those items.
You saw the vote, it was as close as it could have been, 18-17. It could have easily gone the other way, so that also tells me that we're very very close to finding a solution, Luna said.
Luna planned to spend all day Wednesday working to figure out which elements need to be introduced in which committees, separating out what should be considered as individual policy bills, rather than written as intent language in the budget.
I think some of it will focus on the technology, some of it will focus on the differential pay. We'll know by the end of the day where the sweet spot is and then move forward, Luna said. I think we'll have a good budget. It'll look very similar to the one we had earlier today, it's just parts of it are going to go through a different process to get there.
Luna believes the dollars in the new version will stay close to the same as the original, although he mentioned an interesting legislative rule that will at least change it a bit. He says because it's a 'new' budget, it must be changed by at least one dollar.