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Idaho GOP removes House leader after opposing budget

Republican state lawmakers in Idaho ousted a senior member of the Republican leadership Thursday in an escalation of a dispute over the way budgets for state agencies are passed.

Rep. Megan Blanksma of Hammett was removed from her position as House majority leader in a vote by colleagues, the Idaho Statesman reported. The vote came a day after Blanksma was the lone House leader to oppose budgets passed by a panel of lawmakers, a controversial new process.

Factions within Idaho’s GOP have been at odds since the co-chairs of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this year introduced rules that nix the process of passing individual agency budgets. Instead certain agencies are grouped together for the purpose of passing “maintenance” budgets, which provide only the minimal funds needed to keep the agencies operating.

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Only after those budgets are approved can lawmakers consider agency requests for new spending. The committee leaders have said that process allows for more scrutiny.

Blanksma in a statement said she was disappointed by the ouster decision but stands by her “concerns over the new budgeting process.”

“It is our responsibility as elected officials to be vocal and express apprehensions over critical policy that will have major impacts on our state,” her statement said. “While I am no longer majority leader, tomorrow is a new day and I look forward to continuing to diligently work for District 8 and the people of Idaho.”

While the Legislature’s hard-right members and some others have come out in favor of the new budget approach, a group of more centrist Republicans rebelled, sending alternative budget bills — more similar to those of years past — to the House floor.

Idaho State Rep. Megan Blanksma

Idaho State Republican House Majority Leader Megan Blanksma on Jan, 9, 2023.  (AP Photo/Kyle Green, File)

House lawmakers voted to pass the first “maintenance” budget bill Wednesday, after which House Republicans met privately and then announced Blanksma’s ouster Thursday in a news release.

“On behalf of my fellow legislators, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude for Rep. Blanksma’s time as our majority leader,” Republican Rep. Dustin Manwaring of Pocatello, who is also majority caucus chair, said in the news release. “Please be assured that the House Republican Caucus is still focused on the needs and concerns of the people of Idaho. We will continue to work collectively to ensure our communities’ best interests are our number one priority.”

Republicans plan to pick a new majority leader on Monday.

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“The caucus has had some contentious issues amongst itself the last little bit, especially what’s going on in our appropriations committee with the budgets,” House Speaker Mike Moyle told reporters Thursday. “We’re like a dysfunctional family right now; we’ve got a little bit of tension. We’ll get through it.”

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