Thursday, March 5, 2009

What Does Idaho Want

Idaho Gov. C.L . "Butch" Otter made minor national waves a few weeks ago at a national governors' conference as one of several Republican governors considering rejecting some or all of the money coming to his state from the stimulus bill signed into law by President Barack Obama.

It appears he should have listened to his constituents, because according to these really interesting state records, there are plenty of hands being extended Washington's way.

The most fascinating reading comes here, where non-state agencies (ranging form school districts to cities to private individuals to private corporations) have created a $4.7 billion letter to Santa, outlining how much stimulus money they feel they could use. As you'd expect with such programs, there range in this list items from the useful and forward-thinking to a few that are downright comical in their self-centeredness.

A few suggest they'd spend stimulus money doing what President Obama suggested -- developing alternative energy projects. There are, for example, requests for:
  • About $220 million from a company called Augua Caliente for drilling exploratory wells to find sources of geothermal energy for power generation.
  • $2.2 million from Clark County -- population of less than 1,000 -- to build a community wind turbine.
  • About $500 million from Idaho Wind Power LLC to build two wind farms of 100 MW each, plus another $20 million for a geothermal facility.
  • $4.6 million to develop a hydroelectric project on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River, from the Fall River Rural Electric Co-op.
One proposal that evidently came too late was from Grow Idaho Falls, Inc., which wanted $13.1 million to "Establish a for‐profit energy park located between Idaho Falls and the INL. Purchase land, Site studies, engineering, gas pipeline extension, extension of fiber optics." Too bad they missed the deadline. They're obviously trying to capitalize on Areva, Inc's plans to build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant in the area.

Now, on to the oddballs:
  • Melody Russell, no hometown listed, wants $37,000 to pay off her credit cards.
  • Bill Mulligan of Three Rivers Timber wants $7 million to revive an idle logging business.
  • Donna's Bookkeeping and Tax Service wants $135,000 for ongoing business expenses.
Locals are also lining up for some of the moolah:
  • $3.9 million for expansion of the Madison Library
  • Madison Memorial Hospital wants about $780,000 for sundry projects, ranging from fiber optics to a facility to house patients' electronic records.
  • The Madison School District wants $1.5 million to renovate the current high school and convert it into a junior high, following the opening of the district's new high school.
  • $1.6 million to build a new fire station in Madison County
Notably absent from the list is the City of Idaho Falls, which seems to be the state's only major city not seeking a handout. Best represented among Idaho's cities is Meridian, whose mayor, like our governor, made waves in decrying these government handouts.

The list makes for interesting reading. The desire for socialism seems alive and well in this, one of the reddest states in the union. And it should e noted here that I don't consider socialism to be a bad word, nor a bad concept. Especially when it comes to projects related to infrastructure, energy conservation and energy development, I applaud these money-seekers, and wish them well.

Update: The Idaho Statesman has a story on Melody Russell here. They're not the goldbrickers one would imagine. I wish them well.

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