BOISE — A plan to shift nearly two-thirds of the state’s main rainy day account into a new transportation endowment fund found smooth sailing in the House Transportation Committee on Thursday.

No one testified in opposition to the bill, which advanced to the House floor with a favorable recommendation on a unanimous voice vote.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jason Monks, R-Nampa, would shift $272 million from the state Budget Stabilization Fund into a new Economic Reserve and Investment account. Surplus revenues would also flow into the account at the end of each fiscal year.

The expectation, Monks said, is that money in the Economic Reserve account will be invested in stocks, bonds and other equities — thereby earning a higher rate of return than the current Budget Stabilization Fund.

Beginning in fiscal 2022, 5 percent of the market value of the Economic Reserve account would be transferred to the Idaho Transportation Department’s Highway Distribution Account. The money would be split 60-40 between state and local transportation projects.

Monks assured the committee that the corpus of the account — the $272 million — would be protected. It would still be available to address state budget shortfalls, natural disasters or other needs as identified by the Legislature, just as the Budget Stabilization Fund is now.

Assuming the Economic Reserve account earns a reasonable rate of return, however, it would provide a long-term source of funding for Idaho transportation projects.

“We’re trying to get money for roads,” Monks said. “Our hope is that we’ll be able to generate more revenue from interest than we have in the past.”

The endowment is loosely modeled on the Idaho Millennium Fund, which collects money from the 1995 multi-state lawsuit settlement with tobacco firms. The state treasurer would be responsible for investing the money.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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