The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, in a series of unanimous, 18-0 votes, set a budget for the Idaho Transportation Department this morning that covers the cost of replacing an aging state airplane without adding any funds; ITD will instead use personnel savings to cover the $1.5 million cost.
“We figured out a way of getting that taken care of out of their FTP program,” Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, told his fellow JFAC members. The department has an existing program in which personnel savings, related to its “horizontal” career path program, revert to the roads; there’s more than enough there to cover the aircraft expense.
ITD has a fleet of three airplanes, including a 45-year-old Cessna 182 that’s slated for replacement. The others are a King Air, which can carry 10 passengers, can be flown in all types of weather, and can reach most places in Idaho within an hour; and a Cessna 206 purchased in 1978, which can carry five passengers and is capable of carrying oversized cargo. The Cessna 182, which was purchased in 1972, can carry three passengers.
ITD reports that more than 40 state agencies use the state planes, including for emergency transportation for the Idaho State Police and the state Department of Correction; for search and rescue; for emergency transport of hazardous materials; and for non-emergency transportation of state employees.
ITD had originally requested $2 million for the plane replacement from the state Aeronautics Fund, with annual transfers from the state general fund back into the aeronautics fund until it’s repaid.
The budget approved by JFAC generally follows Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation, with the exception of the airplane funding and another item, nearly $3 million for capital facilities needs, including a proposal to replace ITD’s District 4 building in Shoshone with a new structure that possibly would be built elsewhere. A working group of JFAC members including Youngblood, Reps. Sage Dixon and Steve Miller, and Sens. Fred Martin, Carl Crabtree and Mark Nye, who crafted the budget, opted to wait on providing funding for that until more detailed plans are available in the future; ITD is awaiting results of a study before making the siting decision.
The budget still needs House and Senate passage and the governor's signature to become law, but budget bills rarely change after they're set by the joint committee.