The Idaho Spending Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add important context to lawmakers’ discussions as the spending bills are considered on the House and Senate floors. 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.
Of the trio of related appropriations — Senate bills 1210, 1211, and 1212 — this is the most objectionable. This appropriation directs the Department of Administration to purchase “available properties near or adjacent to the Capitol Mall.” One likely target acquisition is the former bank building located at the corner of 8th and State streets that the state of Idaho sold for $1.475 million in late 2016. If this property is acquired at close to the appropriated amount, it would represent a 33 percent premium over what the state sold it for in 2016.
When the Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 29 in the 2017 session, the stated purpose was to purchase the Chinden campus of Hewlett-Packard for the purpose of consolidating state operations and saving rental expenses. The cost of purchase and renovation of the Chinden campus will exceed $100 million.
Acquiring a small, premium-priced property adjacent to the Capitol contradicts the statement of purpose for the acquisition of the Chinden campus. It should also be noted that the target property is in need of a full renovation such that the total cost will exceed the appropriated amount of $1.955 million.
This appropriation is very ill-timed in view of House Bill 302 which authorizes the transfer of up to $140.6 million from the Budget Stabilization Fund to the General Fund to potentially cover revenue shortfalls.