Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is asking the Idaho Supreme Court to block a recent decision by the Land Board to raise lease rates on state-owned property on Payette Lake and Priest Lake. Wasden's lawsuit contends that the leases should be raised higher to provide more money for public schools.
“The approved plan is flawed because the rent is too low,” Wasden said in a news release. “These leases were written to favor the current renters at the expense of public schools and other endowment beneficiaries. If allowed to take effect, the new leases will deprive the beneficiaries of $6 to $10 million dollars annually.” Wasden and State Controller Donna Jones voted against the lease rate increases. Gov. Butch Otter, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna supported the measure. Watch video of Wasden and Ysursa discussing the lakefront lease issues here.
“I question why the attorney general is spending precious taxpayer dollars on this lawsuit rather than bringing forward a motion he thinks is constitutional for the Land Board to consider,” Luna said in a separate news release. Wasden didn't suggest higher rents at the Land Board meeting, but did express his opinion that it didn't meet the Land Board's constitutional requirement to get the highest return for public schools. Luna said his support for the lease rates will still bring in millions more to an endowment for public schools. “A no vote would have been a vote for the status quo, resulting in no additional revenues for schools,” he said. Ysursa said the state should see an additional $2.3 million a year from the rate hikes.