BOISE -- At a time when they're scrutinizing every dollar of state spending, Idaho lawmakers are unwilling to part with an unused governor's mansion and its $120,000 annual maintenance cost.
The House State Affairs Committee Thursday unanimously rejected a proposal to sell the mansion and use the proceeds to support the state park system.
With the state facing a revenue crisis and contemplating cuts to public schools, Medicaid and other programs, bill sponsor Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said it doesn't make sense to hold onto an asset that costs so much to maintain and won't be used for at least another four years.
"I think we're in an emergency situation," Burgoyne said. "It doesn't seem prudent to me to continue spending money on an asset we aren't using."
The 7,370-square-foot hilltop home on the outskirts of Boise was built by billionaire J.R. Simplot in 1980. He donated it to the state in 2005, specifically for use as a governor's mansion. However, Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter -- who was previously married to Simplot's daughter -- already has a home in nearby Star and has no interest in moving.
Some committee members wondered if the mansion were sold whether the state would end up paying a housing stipend to any future governors who didn't live in the Treasure Valley.
"I think that's one can we can safely kick down the road," Burgoyne replied.
Several also felt this wasn't the best time to be selling real estate. They worried about language in the bill that gave the Department of Administration a limited time to sell the property.
"I think by putting a deadline on it, we're locking ourselves into taking a loss," said Rep. Max Black, R-Boise. "We're announcing that desperation has taken over."
Burgoyne wanted any proceeds for the sale, plus the $900,000 or so in the property maintenance fund, to go to the Department of Parks and Recreation to benefit the state park system.
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