Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, may be looking to inflict a little budgetary pain upon himself.
Bayer, set to serve his fifth term in the Idaho House of Representatives, announced last week that he plans to oppose Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Eagle, in the race for majority leader. The Boise Republican told IdahoReporter.com Monday he is running opposite Moyle not necessarily because of any obvious deficiencies in current leadership, but rather because Bayer feels he may be best suited in the next session to handle the problems posed by the state budget.
Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, said that the state budget could be off between $200 and $400 million in fiscal year 2012. Bayer, a member of the Joint Finance-Appropriation Committee (JFAC), the panel the sets budgets for state agencies each year, has served on the board for the past five years and has made tough decisions in the past. He was a member of the 2010 JFAC that approved cuts to every level of state government, including a $128 million reduction to public school funding.
He believes his number-crunching experience through the past half-decade has qualified him for the post. ”I think I have a lot of experience,” said Bayer. ”And we’re going into arguably one of the toughest budget scenarios in Idaho history.”
Especially helpful, Bayer believes, is his work with members of the Idaho Senate on JFAC and the Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee (EORAC), a panel that sets the budgetary expectations of the Legislature each year. Both JFAC and EORAC are joint House and Senate panels, meaning that senators and representatives sit on the panels. ”I like to think I have a lot of colleagues in the Senate,” Bayer explained. ”That’s half of the legislative process.”
Through his time on JFAC, Bayer also says he has collaborated with all state agencies in the budget-setting process, so he is familiar with the functions of departments.
When one lawmaker challenges a sitting majority leader within his own caucus, observers often wonder if there has been bad blood between the two competitors. Bayer says that’s not the case. ”I won’t bring personalities into this,” he explained. ”We all have to work together once these leadership races are over.”
How will a win by Bayer Wednesday, when leadership elections are held, affect policy in the Idaho House? The Boise Republican says he will steer the House toward tough issues, but the focal point will be the budget. ”Everything is budget-driven,” he explained. ”That’s our main mission.” Other than that, Bayer says, he wants to deal with issues surrounding the retirement system and fine-tune how the state handles elections.
Bayer says he has received much backing from his colleagues in the House, though he noted that the election process is held with secret ballots for a reason. “I know I have a lot of support,” concluded Bayer. “This is a real race that everyone is taking seriously.”
Wednesday could feature several challenges to the leadership of the House. Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, has thrown his hat into the ring for the majority caucus chair position, a post held by Rep. Ken Robert, R-Donnelly. It has been rumored that Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, is also planning a run against Moyle for the majority leader spot, but the north Idaho lawmaker has yet to confirm that.
No representatives have announced plans to running against Denney for speaker of the House.