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Boise State budget request includes taxpayer cash for policy institute

Boise State budget request includes taxpayer cash for policy institute

Dustin Hurst
December 9, 2016
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December 9, 2016

Boise State University will ask legislators in January to expand state funding for the school’s new public policy center, formally known as the Idaho Policy Institute.

Weeks ago, the school submitted its budget request ahead of the 2017 session, during which lawmakers will set Fiscal Year 2018 budgets for all state agencies, colleges, universities and other units of government.

Of Boise State’s total $197 million request, the school seeks more than $2 million to expand and enhance its School of Public Service, which includes the new institute.

Launched in August, a school press release notes the institute pledges to “bring faculty experts, well trained and energetic students, and community partners together with objective research and analysis to address problems of public concern.”

Institute Director Greg Hill explained, “We recognize that state and local governments are often strained when it comes to resource allocation to research, so we created the institute to help bridge that gap.”

In a Dec. 2 Idaho Statesman commentary, BSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development Mark Rudin further touted the institute’s planned work.

“The IPI also offers public-policy research, economic forecasts and economic impact studies, demographic research, leadership development, technical assistance and public engagement,” Rudin wrote.

The vice president said the institute will provide research to aid public policy decisions across the state. IPI, he noted, has already conducted polling on key issues.

According to BSU Associate Vice President Greg Hahn, the institute now runs on “a hodgepodge of appropriated dollars, research grants and donations that the School of Public Service has repurposed to get the institute off the ground.”

Hahn said IPI operates with $250,000 in grants from the Idaho National Laboratory, the Public Defense Commission, the cities of Boise and Ketchum, and others. Zion’s Bank, he added, has donated office space in a downtown building.

However, taxpayers could soon pay for more of the institute’s work.

The $2.03 million request to expand the School of Public Service and the institute will fund 11 positions at a cost of about $1.87 million. The rest of the money will cover operating expenses.

In its budget documents, BSU says the institute’s funding “will enable positive community outcomes.” The school also says the extra money will serve “the communities of Idaho and all Idahoans.”

If the institute proves successful Hahn said BSU hopes to enlarge its presence through a mix of grants and state appropriations.

“The tenure and promotions guidelines for the school are emphasizing ‘engaged scholarship’ and applied research, so it is expected that the capacity of the research and the ability to bring in more grants and partners will increase as faculty take on more of this kind of research project,” Hahn wrote.

The institute concept isn’t unique, even at Boise State. The School of Public Service also oversees the work of the Andrus Center for Public Policy, a federally registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. That policy center, according to its website, focuses on the “environment, journalism and public policy, national security, and civil liberties.”

Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, a Democrat, serves as that center’s chairman.

The University of Idaho also has a policy center. The Moscow-based university boasts the McClure Center for Public Policy Research, which has operated since 1959. It was known as the Bureau of Public Affairs until 2007.

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