Common ground on endowment issue?

The four Republicans running for secretary of state clashed somewhat on vote by mail, giving the state’s campaign finance laws a makeover — and even about their own party’s closed primary.

But they didn’t stake out many differences on Land Board issues.

During an hour-long debate on Idaho Public Television Tuesday night, the candidates agreed that the state should focus on natural resource development, as a way of boosting endowments for K-12 and other beneficiaries. None of them voiced support for operating commercial properties to boost endowments — a practice now on hold.

Here are thumbnails from each candidate:

Phil McGrane. The Ada County deputy clerk said the state should focus on its area of strength and expertise: timber harvest. The state gets 85 percent of its endowment proceeds from timber anyway, and the controversial commercial properties generate less than 1 percent of the endowment proceeds. But he said that, even in timber harvest, the state is inevitably in competition with private timber interests. “Anything the Land Board does will compete with private industry.”

Lawerence Denney. The Midvale state representative said the state should not be in competition with commercial entities — since government enjoys built-in advantages such as tax-exempt status. The House Resources and Conservation Committee chairman doesn’t see the state’s timber harvest in competition with private companies, since the state is merely selling a commodity.

Mitch Toryanski. The former state senator from Boise says the state needs to maximize its long-term return on endowment lands — as the state Constitution mandates. “But we always want to consider our values.” The state should not put itself in the position of picking winners and losers.

Evan Frasure. The former state senator from Pocatello believes the state should push for management of lands now under federal jurisdiction — rather than the “speck” of some 2.5 million acres now under state jurisdiction. “I would become very aggressive in that area.”

The secretary of state is one of five members of the state Land Board, which oversees endowment lands. At $31.3 million per year, K-12 is by far the largest endowment beneficiary.

More reading: For a closer look at where the Land Board candidates stand on endowment issues, click on this story. And to see how the state candidates are faring in the fundraising race, click on this story.

 

 

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