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Idaho’s Land Trust Board Votes To Explore Building New Prison With Land Revenues

Idaho Public Television

Idaho’s Land Trust Board Tuesday voted unanimously to explore taking surplus revenue from previous land sales and building a new state prison.

The board typically spends its extra revenue buying timberland or adding to its investment trust fund. State Attorney General Lawrence Wasden proposed the idea, one he called, ‘outside-the-box.’ The board would lease the new facility back to the state, but Wasden said during discussion the state would not be in the business of “operating” a state prison.

Gov. Brad Little, Land Trust Board Chair, noted Idaho currently pays to ship many inmates to out-of-state prisons.

“When I heard this idea, actually I was a little disappointed I didn’t think of it,” the Governor quipped to laughter.

Attorney General Wasden said there are potential practical, legal, and financial issues with the idea, but it seemed to fit the trust’s long-term investment goals.

“It provides a stable level of income,” Wasden said. “Which is what the timber has done for us in our portfolio, it’s also what the cottage sites did; we weren’t getting the type of return we should have had off of them, but it was steady income.”

Many cottage sites - the state land beneath private homesites on Priest Lake and Payette Lake - were auctioned off over the last few years. Those sales contributed to the approximately $130 million cash surplus the land board has on-hand.

According to the Associated Press, the Land Trust Board heard a recommendation from its financial advisor to invest funds into additional timber and farmland. Lower-risk investments like land typically allow the board to increase exposure to riskier - and potentially more lucrative - equity investments.

Wasden noted the prison idea would also be considered a lower-risk infrastructure investment.

The state Department of Lands will complete the analysis of the idea.


Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

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Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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