- Associated Press - Thursday, April 4, 2019

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Legislature’s budget-writing committee has signed off on a plan to pay nearly $500,000 more to buy back a building the state sold over two years ago.

The building, a former bank across the street from the Statehouse in Boise, was sold for $1.48 million during a December 2016 auction to AGS Properties LLLP, a partnership made up of several members of the Simplot family. If the state moves forward, the Simplot family partnership will make a $480,000 profit on the deal.

The family’s patriarch, billionaire potato magnate J.R. Simplot, died in 2008.

The sale came at a time when the state endowment fund was directed to sell several commercial properties after lawmakers raised concerns that the state was competing with private-sector developers.

House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks, a Republican from Nampa, says the property is being eyed for future governmental needs, not for use by the Legislature.

“We know we’re going to need that space here in 10 to 20 years,” he said.

Monks said he’s not thrilled that the state is now repurchasing the site at a 33% markup. However, the decision to move the endowment fund out of the commercial property business, to him, is a separate issue from whether the state should buy property near the capitol mall.

Monks said there’s not “any impropriety” involved in the move.

“We look with hindsight, and we say that was maybe not the smartest thing that was done two or three years ago,” he said.

Under the legislation unveiled Wednesday, the money to purchase the building would come from a supplemental appropriation from the current year’s general fund budget.

“The current Legislature feels that when any property comes up as available within the Capitol Mall area, we should look really hard at purchasing that,” he said.

Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, “I will never forget Mr. J.R. Simplot telling me the one thing they don’t make more of is land. And I think the land that is close to the Capitol Mall is precious, and if we’re able to secure any of that land for future legislative use, I think that might be a wise expenditure of our funds.”

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