After three hours of hearings on education programs related to the University of Idaho, including ag research and extension, Forest Utilization Research (FUR) and the Geological Survey, and on an array of health education programs including WWAMI and an array of medical residency programs that are poised for significant expansion, JFAC this morning voted on three supplemental appropriations requested by Gov. Butch Otter. Two of the three won unanimous support; the third, for $100,000 to the Department of Commerce to promote Idaho’s efforts to attract the F-35 mission to Boise’s Gowen Field, passed 19-1.
Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, who cast the one “no” vote, raised concerns about the potential for noise accompanying the F-35 mission. She asked Idaho National Guard Maj. General Gary Sayler, “The F-35s are very noisy, and the plan is you’re going to purchase about 500 homes, many of those are in my district. And there’s an alternative plan to build out that third runway. What’s the chance of you building out that third runway, that would be less impactful on my district?”
Actually, according to the city of Boise, the potential plan to purchase homes in the airport area is not related to the F-35 mission, and instead is part of a regular airport impact study that looks years out into the future. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said city spokesman Mike Journee. “If at some point in the future we were to buy homes as part of the airport noise mitigation, it would be a mutual agreement sort of thing, and then ultimately the FAA would have to approve it and provide funding for that. And no, the idea of 500 homes being bought up simply because of the F-35’s is not true.”
Journee said both purchase of homes and the third runway are “recognized as ways that noise challenges at the airport could be mitigated.” But, he said, “Nothing will happen before 2020 at the very earliest on any of this.”
Sayler responded to King, “The Air Force requirement to base the F-35 is that the installation has a single runway of 8,000 feet or greater. As you know, Boise has two runways greater than that. So I don’t believe the Air Force is going to participate in building a third runway to base the mission. I think the cost would be prohibitive.”
“As far as building out the third runway, it’s really an airport and a city issue,” Sayler said. “I know the airport is currently reviewing their master plan, that’s one of the things that’s being looked at. … That’s part of the airport master plan. It’ll be looked at through those efforts, not Air Force efforts.”
Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, who like King represents District 18 in Boise, said, “I’m going to support this appropriation, because I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there, at least in my district, and I want to see the education piece and all of the information out there to the public.”
Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, moved to approve the expenditure, which will be authorized immediately, during the current budget year. He said it will “support education, promotion and outreach efforts to recruit the F-35 mission to Gowen Field,” including “outreach to Idaho citizens on the value and economic impacts of the National Guard, and securing the mission for the state of Idaho; and also education to key United States lawmakers and senior Air Force leadership about Idaho’s ability to carry out this mission.”
The other two current-year appropriations that JFAC approved this morning were for a new director of information security in the governor’s office, a position recommended by the Governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force; and for $384,100 in one-time funds from the Permanent Building Fund to cover unanticipated costs for renovation already in progress on the basement of the Idaho Supreme Court building. Both those won unanimous, 20-0 votes in support. The supplemental appropriations still need approval from the full House and Senate and the governor’s signature before they become law, but budget bills seldom change once they’re approved by the joint committee.