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House Bill 791 - Permanent Building Fund, FY22 Supplemental

House Bill 791 - Permanent Building Fund, FY22 Supplemental

Fred Birnbaum
March 21, 2022

The Idaho Spending 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.

Bill description: House Bill 791 appropriates $251,000,000 to the Permanent Building as a FY22 supplemental.

Rating: -1

There are three particularly concerning line items in this Permanent Building Fund FY22 supplemental. There is another bill, H779 that contains a Permanent Building Fund FY22 supplemental as well. Apparently, the request was so large that it was broken into two separate bills. 

The line item for private room conversations in Veterans’ Homes is a $75 million request that represents 35% of the total cost. The other 65% of the cost comes from the federal government. In total, this represents over $214 to convert 284 rooms to single room/private bath. This is at a price of over $750k per room. More than the cost of most homes.

Another line item, the 848-bed female prison, is touted as costing $112 million, but that does not include the ongoing expense to operate the prison. Out of state and county placement are variable costs, while operating a prison has a large fixed cost. Operating this prison will add millions to the ongoing budget every year and won’t be cheaper in the long run than county or out of state placement. 

Finally, there is a $11 million line item for building more/upgrading legislative office space at the Capitol. This is incredibly ill-timed. The offices are suitable and thousands of Idaho families are struggling with higher food and gas prices and spending money at this time in this manner is a slap in the face.

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