The Idaho Budget Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add important context to lawmakers’ discussions as they are considered on the floor of the House and Senate. Among the issues we look at in drawing a conclusion about a budget:
Does the agency requesting these funds serve a proper role of government? Has wasteful or duplicative spending been identified within the agency, and if so, has that spending been eliminated or corrected? Does the budget examine existing spending to look for opportunities to contain spending, e.g., through a base reduction? If there is a maintenance budget, is that maintenance budget appropriate? Are the line items appropriate in type and size, and are they absolutely necessary for serving the public? Does the budget contemplate the addition of new employees or programs? Does the appropriation increase dependency on the federal government?
Our analysis is intended to provide lawmakers and their constituents with a frame of reference for conservative budgeting, by summarizing whether appropriation measures contain items that are sincerely objectionable or sincerely supportable.
This appropriation contains a line item, $2.025 million, for an administrative center at Thousand Springs that is concerning for several reasons.
Both the governor and the agency made the request for $600,000 of dedicated funds and $225,000 of federal funds. In addition to other funds, this line items was to be funded with $1.2 million from the Permanent Building Fund. The Permanent Building funds were not recommended by the Building Fund Advisory Council (Legislative Budget Book FY20, page 4-43), so the line request was increased from $825,000 to $2.025 million. The difference is made up with $1.2 million from registration funds from the Recreational Vehicle Advisory Committee.
However, since the project was estimated at a cost of $2.4 million when the budget was presented, which is $375,000 more than the motion, an additional concern is that a supplemental may be needed. The original $2.4 million estimate was based on comparable construction data: the cost per square foot of the recently constructed Lake Cascade visitor center.
Finally, this project will allow the National Park Service (NPS) to share the use of the facility for an initial investment of $225,000, or roughly 9 to 11 percent of the cost. The NPS will enter into a 20-year lease at $50k per year.
Given the funding changes, the project assumptions could use further review.