Eye On Boise

Land Board to update its asset management plan in wake of criticism

Idaho's state Land Board, with Gov. Butch Otter presiding, deliberates on Tuesday morning. (Betsy Russell)
Idaho's state Land Board, with Gov. Butch Otter presiding, deliberates on Tuesday morning. (Betsy Russell)

Idaho's state Land Board, which is chaired by the governor and includes the state Attorney General, Secretary of State, Controller and Superintendent of Public Instruction, voted unanimously today to begin crafting updates to its asset management plan for the state endowment, to reflect recent updates, such as the decision dispose of many lakefront cottage sites, and to "clarify desirable types of land investments." Though board members continue to clash over the endowment's purchase last year of a self-storage business, which is operated for the state by a contractor - and criticism from some legislators and others that the endowment is competing with the private sector - all said they thought the updates were a good idea; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

"I for one believe that clarification in our overall plan is probably appropriate, to help us focus our thoughts and our actions and also ... educate the public and the Legislature about what we're trying to accomplish," said Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

Gov. Butch Otter said he thought the self-storage purchase was the first time the Land Board had "changed the character of our position" from simply being a landlord, to being "dependent on ... profits and loss." Deputy Lands Department Director Kathy Opp noted that there are other types of leases where the endowment gets a percentage of profits; the Tamarack Resort lease was one, she noted. Otter said that one included a base payment, with the percentage on top of that - and he's comfortable with that arrangement. "Then you have a posture of being the landlord," he said. "You're not at risk."

State Schools Supt. Tom Luna said he's concerned about impacts on local property taxes when the endowment purchases land in a particular county, city or school district; that property becoming publicly owned, and thus exempt from property taxes, would cause others in the same jurisdiction to pay more to make up the difference, he said. Secretary of State Ben Ysursa noted, "There are more taxes than property tax - there's income and sales taxes, and sometimes work on the endowment property impacts that area, too. ... They go into the general fund, and a pretty high percentage goes to public schools." He said, "You can't discuss that in a vacuum. ... You've got to look at the whole picture."

Some lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, have suggested that the endowment should make payments in lieu of taxes to local governments. But Otter said, "It's been pointed out again and again, the Constitution prohibits us from doing that." He said he was interested in exploring some type of "mechanism" to allow something along those lines, but that'd likely take a constitutional amendment. Wasden noted that when the endowment buys property in one jurisdiction, it typically sells or trades away property in another jurisdiction - so any property tax impact in one is balanced by the opposite impact in the other.

The Lands Department will work on the updates to the asset management plan and coordinate with all the Land Board members and their staffs, and present them to the board at its November meeting.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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