Lawmakers decide to pay off debt sooner, amid budget surplus

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The prepayment of 13 outstanding bonds covers everything from state higher education buildings to a parking lot north of the Capitol.

BOISE, Idaho- This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

Big budget decisions by the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Monday call for the state to dip into its $176 million budget surplus to pay off all but one of its outstanding bonds; directing $300 million in federal aid funds over the next five years to improve local water and sewage in rural Idaho communities; and finance a range of capital construction projects.

“By paying down this debt, we … avoid $63 million in interest payments over the next 30 years,” said Alex Adams, budget director for Governor Brad Little. “So that means real savings for Idaho taxpayers.”

The bond repayment plan won the unanimous support of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance and Appropriations on Monday, as budgets were set for the Department of State Administration and the bond payment program. of State; the state department of environmental quality; and the Permanent Building Fund, covering major capital projects that Idaho will fund this year and next.

Budget bills still need to be passed by the full House and Senate and signed by the governor to become law, but they rarely change once they’re set by the 20-year joint finance and appropriations committee. members.

JFAC Co-Chair Sen. Jeff Agenbroad, R-Nampa, said, “I strongly support Idaho’s decision to use a portion of our surplus to pay down our debts. This is sound conservative fiscal policy that is recognized by those who have ranked Idaho among the most conservative and fiscally transparent states in the nation.

Advance payment for 13 outstanding bonds covers everything from state higher education buildings to a parking lot north of the Capitol to the Chinden State Office Complex, formerly the Boise Hewlett-Packard Campus . Otherwise, the bonds would have had payment dates ranging from 2023 to 2048.

The state will also see continued debt service savings of $4.3 million per year and, freed from annual bond payments, the state’s Permanent Building Fund will have approximately 40% of revenue. extra per year to be spent on the construction and maintenance of government buildings. that’s nearly $14 million a year more.

Idaho has an unprecedented budget surplus this year of nearly $2 billion. This made this year’s state budget a different project than usual. The $176 million bond repayment program, tapping into the state’s general fund, was approved as a supplementary appropriation, to allow it to occur in the current budget year; Idaho’s new fiscal year begins July 1.

Adams said the governor is working to put the state on a path to reimbursing all of its deferred maintenance costs on state buildings over the next 10 years.

The only remaining bond debt Idaho will have is for a skilled nursing facility in Blackfoot operated by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare; the federal government, rather than the state, would have realized savings by repaying this obligation sooner, so lawmakers did not include it in the state-funded advance payment.

Here are other major budgets approved by the joint committee on Monday:

The DEQ will see a 101.7% higher budget in total funds next year than this year, but that’s almost all because of the timely use of federal aid funds that will flow through the department. This includes $60 million next year for grants for major local drinking water and wastewater improvements, the first installment of a five-year, $300 million investment; and $13.7 million for cleanup of contaminated sites across the state.

JFAC included ‘language of intent’ in the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee’s suggested budget for water and wastewater grants, prioritizing systems “having the greatest need, but the least ability to pay”.

The DEQ received 263 letters of interest from across the state this year, totaling more than $1.4 billion for water and wastewater projects. The largest claim from this group was for $546 million from the City of Boise.

But after Monday morning’s meeting, DEQ director Jess Byrne said based on the wording of the budget: ‘I think it’s highly likely that Boise won’t end up qualifying, depending on how much money available and the extent of their demand.”

Adams noted that the budget also includes $44 million for state matching funds for $407 million in additional federal assistance to the state for water projects under the Water Resources Act. infrastructure approved by Congress this year, which would come out in the form of low-interest loans.

“So there are definitely opportunities there, between grants and loans,” he said. “I think communities across the state, regardless of size, will have several options to work with.”

The joint committee also approved additional appropriations to the DEQ this year, including $5 million in general state funds for farm best management practices, bolstering an existing program; $5 million from the general fund for matching grants for improving pollution control in confined animal feeding operations; and $1.45 million from American Rescue Plan Act federal assistance funds for the continued cleanup of the Triumph Mine.

This abandoned mine, located about 6 miles southeast of Sun Valley, produced lead, zinc and silver from 1882 to 1957, but after a bankruptcy in 2005 the state took responsibility for cleanup underway, with much work still to be done.

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, railed against the use of federal assistance funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to clean up the mine. “It’s ARPA money,” he said. “It’s money borrowed from our grandchildren. … We divert resources from what people would like. He said, “It looks like free money, but it’s a diversion of resources and it’s coming from families to these government programs.”

Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, responded, “I believe I’m also a federal taxpayer, so I’m very excited to use these federal funds where they belong, just once. He noted that he had visited the Triumph mine several times. “This is a great use of these funds to address an environmental hazard that the state of Idaho is responsible for,” he said.

The extra credit passed by an 18-2 vote, with only Nate and Priscilla Giddings Rep. R-White Bird voting no.

STATE BUILDINGS. The JFAC has approved a permanent construction fund budget for next year that includes $211.5 million for construction and maintenance projects, including $94 million for deferred maintenance projects across the country. state, which is $6 million less than the proposed governor; $29 million for a new combined lab for the Idaho State Police; $10 million for a health sciences building on the College of Western Idaho’s Nampa campus; $5 million for a CWI horticultural building; and much more.

The budget motion passed unanimously, 20-0. It does not include two major construction proposals that will be taken separately: $161 million in state prison construction projects, including a new $112 million women’s prison; and $75 million for improvements to Idaho State Veterans’ Homes.

A $10 million project that Little had recommended, to build a new dormitory at POST Academy, the state’s law enforcement training academy, was also shelved.

Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, Co-Chair of JFAC, said, “When we looked into it, they have a contract with two local hotels,” which he says only costs the state about $60. the night. Youngblood said lawmakers concluded that made more sense than spending $10 million on a new state building. “It’s very effective,” he says.

Adams said the governor thought it “made sense for the state to have its own facilities and not have to rely on local hotels, but we certainly respect the decision JFAC made.”

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, learn more at IdahoPress.com.

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