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Andrus Allows Idaho Finance Package To Become Law

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Bowing out of a bruising confrontation with Republicans in the legislature, Idaho's Democratic Governor has allowed a $496-million school-finance package to become law without his signature.

Despite a previous pledge to reject any spending plan below his own $501-million school-funding proposal, Gov. Cecil D. Andrus said this month that he would not veto the legislature's spending plan because lawmakers were unlikely to yield in their opposition to his proposal.

Although the $5-million difference represented a small fraction of state school spending, the gap had become a major political issue in Idaho, with Mr. Andrus and G.O.P. leaders of the legislature at one point delivering statewide television addresses to defend their stands. (See Education Week, March 18, 1992.)

Even as he announced that he would acquiesce in the legislature's figure, the Governor has hinted that he would work to retaliate against Republican lawmakers in the November elections.

Mr. Andrus and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jerry L. Evans had warned that the spending plan espoused by House Republicans could drastically disrupt education reform in the Gem State.

Backers of Mr. Andrus's stand--including a coalition of education groups that earlier had called for a $530-million budget for precollegiate education--argued that money could be found for the Governor's budget by dipping into the state's $34.5-million reserve account.

But House Republicans contended that the higher level of spending would be fiscally irresponsible. The money in the reserve fund might be needed to cover potential deficits in the coming year if the state's economy declined, they said.
Compromise Plan Rejected

Mr. Andrus announced he would no longer fight over the $5-million disparity during a scholarship-awards ceremony this month.

Although he declined at that point to fault his opponents, suggesting that such criticisms would taint the ceremony, Mr. Andrus has publicly supported a contender for the seat held by the House Republican floor leader, Representative Gary L. Montgomery.

Mr. Andrus accused Mr. Montgomery of being primarily responsible for the legislative logjam.

The crucial squabble continued until the last days of the legislative session as John D. Hansen, the Republican chairman of the Senate Education committee and a supporter of the Governor's plan, attempted unsuccessfully to rally support for a measure that would have cut the budget for the state health and welfare department to make up the difference between the two plans.

"This is where all the money went that we couldn't give to education,'' Mr. Hansen said.

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