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The outcome of an Idaho Supreme Court lawsuit related to the blocked sale of the Idaho Transportation Department’s former headquarters in Boise could impact the transportation budget, an attorney for the Idaho Legislature said Wednesday.

In April, prospective buyers of the former Idaho Transportation Department headquarters in Boise filed suit after the Idaho Legislature passed budget language blocking the $51.7 million sale. The Idaho Capital Sun previously reportedThe buyer group includes Hawkins Co., Pacific West Communities and FJ Management.

In court filings, the Idaho Supreme Court has indicated that oral arguments in the case could occur in late August. Meanwhile, key state budget milestones will be reached shortly before and after the oral arguments.

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The first milestone will be reached on July 1, when the state begins the new 2025 fiscal year and the new budget takes effect. The budget provision blocking the sale of the former headquarters building is included in the Idaho Transportation Department’s fiscal year 2025 budget. That budget includes $592 million in additional funding for the Idaho Transportation Department.

The second milestone will be reached on September 1, when all state agencies, including the Idaho Department of Transportation, must submit their fiscal year 2026 budget request to the state.

Depending on the outcome of the litigation, the state may be able to keep the State Street property and spend $32 million on renovations. Or the Idaho Supreme Court could side with the prospective buyers and order the state to complete the sale for $51.7 million. That would eliminate the need for renovations, but it might require the state to relocate the Idaho Transportation Department or renovate other state office space to accommodate the department.

“If the (potential buyers) win the case and the bills are found unconstitutional, it will definitely impact ITD’s budget,” said Elizabeth Bowen, legal counsel for the Idaho Legislative Services Office, during the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance and Budget Committee meeting Thursday at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise.

“I imagine they’ll bring you a specific request that the legislature refused to fund this year,” Bowen added. “So that could impact the transportation budget. If they (buyers) don’t win, I can’t imagine it’s going to have much of an impact.”

Therefore, lawmakers know that there could be possible budget changes.

“We may have to be pretty flexible here,” said Rep. Clay Handy, R-Burley.

What happened in the lawsuit over the Idaho Transportation Department’s headquarters?

Since the lawsuit was filed in April, the case has caused a lot of sensational legal developments.

Last month, the Idaho Transportation Department and the Idaho Department of Administration filed court documents changing their legal counsel from the office of Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador to private outside counsel. The Sun had previously reported.

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Labrador’s office withdrew as counsel days after Idaho Governor Brad Little’s office made public statements saying Labrador had filed a complaint and answer in the case without obtaining the approval of some of the state’s highest officials, which Boise Dev was first to report.

The Idaho Department of Administration and the Idaho Department of Transportation are now represented by outside private consultants.

In addition, House Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star) filed a motion to intervene in the case on May 15 on behalf of the Idaho House of Representatives. Although both parties are in the same lawsuit against the state, Moyle is using a different legal strategy and arguments than the private attorney representing the Idaho Transportation Department and the Idaho Department of Administration. Court documents showMoyle argues that the State Street property was never properly offered for sale, Idaho Reports reported.

The Idaho Budget Committee tour included a field trip to observe in-demand vocational training programs

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) is an influential legislative committee that sets every element of the state budget. Although the Idaho Legislature adjourned for the year on April 10 and is not in session, the JFAC is conducting its spring tour this week.

After discussing the lawsuit and an overview of the processes for writing and editing budget bills, lawmakers traveled to the College of Western Idaho in Nampa to take a closer look at some of the job training programs offered there.

The deputies met with College of Western Idaho President Gordon Jones while touring labs and classrooms used for auto repair, welding, mechatronics and health care courses. During law enforcement training, JFAC members watched a portion of College of Western Idaho’s tactical medical training, which included a simulated active shooting scenario at a medical facility. The deputies stood a few feet away as the simulation played out, complete with fake blood and blanks from practice guns.

The programs lawmakers learned about are eligible for the Idaho Launch program, which Little supports. Under Idaho Launch, the state awards grants of up to $8,000 to graduates of Idaho high schools and homeschools to invest in an Idaho-based training program for in-demand jobs.

The Idaho Launch was hotly debated in the Idaho Legislature and passed the Idaho House of Representatives in 2023 by a narrow margin of 36 to 34.

Wednesday was the second day of the JFAC meeting. During the first meeting of the JFAC on Tuesday, Lori Wolff, the new director of the Idaho Division of Financial Management, told committee members no further large budget surplus expected when the state’s 2024 fiscal year ends on June 30.

The Joint Finance and Budget Committee will hold the final meeting of its spring tour at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. The meeting will be streamed live online for free at Idaho in session.

JFAC will also conduct a fall tour before the 2025 legislative session begins in January, said Republican Rep. Wendy Horman of Idaho Falls.

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