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Eye on Boise: Idaho endowment fund sees nice earnings bounce

Sun., April 24, 2011

BOISE – It’s been a good year so far for Idaho’s permanent endowment fund, with earnings on investments through March 31 at 23.1 percent.

Larry Johnson, investments manager, said the 23.1 percent gain came since the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

The past month saw a 0.4 percent increase, although Johnson noted there’s been a small loss since then. The permanent endowment fund now stands at $1.26 billion, which is up 5.6 percent from five years ago, showing that this year’s gains have made up past years’ losses.

Earnings from the endowment go to its beneficiaries, the largest of which is the state’s public schools.

Of moves and rules …

When new state Tax Commission Chairman Bob Geddes was appointed, he was in Boise serving as a ninth-term state senator; two years earlier, he’d sold his house in Soda Springs and bought a home in Meridian, but still rented a home in Soda Springs. Under state policies, Geddes was entitled to reimbursement for his moving expenses for the job, including one-way transport of two vehicles.

But since he was in Boise, he had to go back to Soda Springs in eastern Idaho each time he packed up and moved household items from there to Boise. As a result, the $1,861.66 in moving expenses he submitted violated the state’s rules for two reasons: It included trips that weren’t from the old to the new location (because they were round trips from Boise), and Geddes wanted to bill the state for another trip this spring to pick up and haul his 1930 Model A Ford. The other vehicle he moved was his pickup.

Variances from the state’s moving-expense policy for top workers can be approved by the state Board of Examiners. In submissions to the board, Geddes noted that he made his move affordable by packing and moving himself in a U-Haul, and said, “The timeliness of this move allowed me to save at least two months of home rental payments in Soda Springs.” The appointment came up unexpectedly in the midst of the legislative session, he said.

“I know that this entire process seems like the old riddle of how to get a goat, fox, chicken and a rattle snake across the river in a canoe by making the least number of crossings and with nobody being eaten,” Geddes wrote. “My riddle was to go to Soda Springs, rent a moving van, move household belongings to Boise and two vehicles in the least number of trips. I believe I solved the riddle in the most cost-effective manner for the state of Idaho.”

However, a subcommittee of the Board of Examiners determined that the antique car didn’t qualify for a $526.20 moving expense reimbursement, “because it is for the move of a non-household item.”

So Geddes submitted a revised request, and last week, the Board of Examiners voted unanimously to approve reimbursement for the extra trip legs between Boise and Soda Springs, for a total of $436.80. That means Geddes’ total state-reimbursed moving expenses came to $1,335.46, since the antique-car portion was removed.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who serves on the board, said, “There are some extenuating circumstances that justify the expenses,” including the “very short time frame” Geddes was given to switch jobs while required by his previous post to be in Boise for the legislative session. “So there is good justification for the exception from the standard policy.” Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who also serves on the board, noted the exclusion of the other $526.20. “I think we’ve made the frugal choice and the wise choice on these exceptions,” he said.

Lupus awareness

May will be Lupus Awareness Month in Idaho under a proclamation signed by Gov. Butch Otter to draw attention to what Otter called “an important public health issue.” Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said her 12-year-old granddaughter died of the disease in 2005, just six months after being diagnosed. “It is devastating to those who have it. It is devastating to their families,” Broadsword said. “I hope all Idahoans realize how this can impact lives, and forming groups in their area can support those who have the disease.”

Broadsword said her granddaughter would have graduated from high school next month, had she lived. “The disease attacks the organs of those who have it,” she said. “Often you can’t tell from the outside there is anything wrong.”

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