BOISE — Idaho’s budget writers narrowly passed an appropriation bill that includes funding for a Boise State University facility, which replaced an effort to keep the state’s largest university out of the capital projects budget.
The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee passed the Permanent Building Fund budget Tuesday, which included $72.9 million for higher education facility projects. Gov. Brad Little in his proposed budget had recommended $109.9 million for these projects.
The budget, which passed in a 10-9 vote, appropriated the higher education project funds by enrollment rather than by project.
Rep. James Petzke, R-Meridian, made the motion, which represented a change from the original proposal to provide the same amount of funding to higher ed projects but allocate those funds to the universities based on the projects — the original motion did not include any funding for BSU.
“I get a little bit of heartburn when we start picking favorites amongst the higher education institutions,” Petzke said, noting Boise State’s exclusion. “... what this basically means, is that, at least from my perspective, I think this is a more fair allocation of these funds.”
Petzke’s motion was originally a tie vote, but Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, changed her “no” vote to a “yes,” and it passed. Sen. Ben Adams, R-Nampa was absent. The budget will need approval from the House and Senate.
The budget includes $17.9 million for BSU to design and construct a science research building. The governor in his budget had proposed $30 million for this project.
In her Jan. 24 budget hearing to the committee, university President Marlene Tromp said teaching lab space was well over capacity.
“This facility will meet a pressing need for teaching labs and science classrooms, which helps students prepare for those in-demand careers,” Tromp said at the time.
Asked about the appropriation approved Tuesday, BSU spokesperson Mike Sharp said in an emailed statement, “Boise State University supports the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee’s vote to fund capital projects on college campuses throughout Idaho, including our much-needed science building. We are committed to working with lawmakers to answer any questions that may arise as this funding bill works its way to the governor’s desk.”
Sen. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, said the committee should tread carefully when funding based on enrollment, because institutions like Lewis-Clark State College may never be able to compete for enough funding to complete its construction projects.
“We have to pick each one of these projects and give them enough funding so they finish what they start,” Burtenshaw said.
Around $2.4 million was included for LCSC in the budget that passed; the governor had recommended a total of $6 million for the Lewiston college for a remodel of the Sam Glenn complex, to expand dormitory capacity and to build out the Clearwater Hall first floor.
Sen. Rick Just, D-Boise, said he felt the Legislature had been “disrespecting” the state’s largest university, and supported its inclusion in the facility funding.
“In recent years, we’ve been punishing Boise State University for doing what previous legislatures have asked them to do, and I think it’s time to stop,” Just said.
The budget included significantly less than what the governor had recommended for the state’s larger institutions as well.
The University of Idaho would be allocated nearly $9 million for its proposed projects at its McCall field campus, to build a new meat science center, create a new Joint Reserve Officer Training Corps facility and to continue funding ongoing construction of the Parma campus building. The governor had included in his budget proposal around $15.5 million in total for these projects.
Idaho State University would receive about $8.4 million for future expansion of its Meridian health science campus, for the nuclear faculty research lab space at Idaho National Laboratory or to expand the physician assistant facility in Pocatello. In Little’s proposed budget, he recommended around $16 million total for capital projects.
ISU spokesperson Emily Frandsen said in an emailed statement that the university would use the allocated funding for one or more of the proposed projects, if the budget passes as-is.
“The funding will not cover the cost for all three projects,” Frandsen wrote.
However, the state’s community colleges received the full requested funds — outside of North Idaho College, which was not included in the budget.
The College of Western Idaho received $15.7 million in total for a student learning center as well as for development of an expanded agricultural science program. The budget included $11.5 million for the College of Southern Idaho for emergency generator and data center improvements and to remodel a physical science building. The College of Eastern Idaho would receive $8 million for infrastructure improvements.
Other building fund projectsThe Permanent Building Fund budget totaled about $185.2 million for other facility projects.
The budget did not include the governor’s recommendation for most of the Department of Health and Welfare’s requests, including $24 million for a secure, forensic mental health facility to care for patients considered “dangerously mentally ill” by Idaho courts.
Also excluded was $4.7 million for a patient treatment facility at State Hospital South and $5 million in total for plumbing and electrical replacement at the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center.
The budget did include $10.6 million to replace Department of Juvenile Corrections cottages in St. Anthony. The department would also receive $6.2 million for building modifications at the Lewiston facility to provide spaces suitable for “multiple types of youth populations,” according to the motion.
Idaho State Police facilities in Lewiston and Idaho Falls would be allocated around $10.6 million and nearly $10 million, respectively, for remodeling and construction of the ISP district offices.
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academy in Pierce would receive $6 million for dormitories.
The budget additionally includes $15 million for the Idaho State Historical Society to consolidate separate collections and records facilities into one facility.
Because the budget bill received less support from the committee’s House members, it will go to that chamber for the vote before heading to the Senate.