The Idaho state government balanced its last budget by backfilling a revenue shortfall with $8.26 million from the state’s Permanent Building Fund. While that shift won’t lead to spending cuts for state services in the next year, it will push back some construction and renovation plans for state buildings across the state.
“What we’re going to do is delay the starting of a number of projects,” said Mike Gwartney, the head of the Department of Administration, which oversees the state’s public works projects. “ Everything we’ve started, we’re going to work through and complete. We’re not going to have half a building with a crane sitting there, like in Russia.”
The Permanent Building Fund gets money to build and repair state facilities from a share of several state taxes, including the income and sales tax, as well as taxes on beer and cigarettes. The largest portion of its budget in the coming year will be $17 million from the Idaho Lottery.
Idaho lawmakers set a $22.9 million budget for the building fund, though Gwartney said some projects stretch over several years and the state has hundreds of millions of dollars in improvement projects.
Gwartney didn’t specify how long delays would last or which projects would be delayed due to the $8.26 million shift, but it could include maintenance, repair, and construction projects approved by the governor and lawmakers. Those projects include demolishing three deteriorating 75-year-old buildings at State Hospital South in Blackfoot, adding a new maintenance shop at the Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino, and some work at the Capitol Mall in Boise.
Even before the fund shift to balance the budget, there was a backlog of construction and repair projects. In its report to the governor and lawmakers, the Department of Administration identified potential projects that could cost $162 million.
Gwartney said that while there may be more delays, Idaho has priorities for what new projects to start. “Building safety is our number one priority,” he said.