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House Resolution 16 - To fund the Idaho State Police's request for the purchase of a new helicopter and related expenses

House Resolution 16 - To fund the Idaho State Police's request for the purchase of a new helicopter and related expenses

Fred Birnbaum
February 14, 2022

The Idaho Spending Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add some important context to lawmakers’ discussions as the spending bills are considered on the House and Senate floors. As we look at the budget, we consider the following issues:

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? Have budget-writers reviewed existing outlays 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 adding 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 truly objectionable or legitimate and worthy of support.

Rating: -1

Bill description: HR016 dedicates approximately $7.1 million to the Idaho State Police so it may buy a new helicopter, hoist system and hangar for the ISP air support division.


This request is only for the acquisition cost of an ISP helicopter and a hanger. The cost to operate and maintain the helicopter will be a separate line item. 

The ongoing cost will include salary and benefits for 5 positions: 2 officers, 2 mechanics, and an assistant, projected to start at $300,000 per year beginning in FY23.

Some things to note:

  1. One rationalization for the helicopter is that it could help with the search and rescue operations of stranded backcountry users. But for many decades, Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue, a nonprofit organization, has provided these services, relying on volunteers and donations. It  does technical and high risk rescues too.  Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Unit | Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Unit (imsaru.org)
  2. It is not the responsibility of the state’s taxpayers to provide these services.
  3. Another justification was to catch fugitives who may be in remote locations. Unless this is a weekly occurrence, however, a cost-benefit review might suggest that these funds could be put to better use in more conventional law enforcement methods.
  4. The Legislative Budget Book puts requests in order of priority. Based on the last- place ranking of this line item for FY22 acquisition, and 17th out of 17 for the FY23 line items, the ISP is not making this request a high priority. 
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