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The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning unanimously approved a big piece of Gov. Brad Little’s “Building Idaho’s Future” initiative, backing an $89.2 million transfer to the Permanent Building Fund during the current budget year for construction projects and building alterations and repairs. Of the $89.2 million, $45.7 million would go to alterations and repairs on state buildings identified by the Permanent Building Fund Advisory Council, and $43.5 million would be for specific projects, including $10 million to develop supportive housing for the Department of Correction’s new connection and intervention station program; $13 million to replace the east dorm at the South Idaho Correctional Institution; $7.4 million to replace dorms at the Idaho Military Division’s Youth Challenge Academy; $6.4 million to replace two buildings at the Juvenile Corrections Center-St. Anthony; and $3 million each for the University of Idaho’s Parma agricultural research center and the College of Eastern Idaho’s “Future Tech” facility.

Also approved by the joint committee this morning was a $1 million supplemental appropriation for the Idaho Department of Labor to reimburse FEMA for payments through the Lost Wages Assistance Program linked to fraud; that passed, 17-0. And JFAC voted 16-2 in favor of a supplemental appropriation to the Office of the State Board of Education to reflect the award in January of a $6 million early childhood education grant. The “no” votes came from Reps. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, and Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said as part of the background to the grant, “A group of legislators attended a conference, among them was Chairman Clow and Rep. Ehardt. We realized there was a federal grant to help us gather data on, in Idaho, what the need is for early child learning, and also to centralize the resources. … It’s been an interesting journey. I think the information we’re getting is going to be very valuable for families.”

After JFAC adjourned, the House Appropriations Committee met and voted 7-2 in favor of SB 1033, to increase the annual transfer to fund the House and Senate by 26% to $8.5 million. It’s the first increase since 2009. Giddings and Nate voted no; the Senate-passed bill now moves to the full House with a recommendation that it “do pass.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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