The Idaho Legislature's budget-writing committee has the unpleasant Solomon-like task of dividing up Gem State revenues and determining how the state's agencies and departments—health and welfare, education, prisons, you name it—will be funded.
It's a grim process; that is, with the exception of one day each year.
Idaho State Historical Society Executive Director Janet Gallimore stood before members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning to request nearly $5.5 million for the agency that preserves Idaho's history and manages up to 74 buildings and hundreds of acres of land across Idaho.
Gallimore also updated lawmakers on her agency's ambitious $10 million project to dramatically revamp the Idaho State Historical Museum in Boise's Julia Davis Park, adding approximately 10,000 square feet of exhibition space. The renovation requires nearly two years, and Gallimore is hoping to unveil the new museum in 2017.
But JFAC members were also anxious to see what Gallimore had brought to the State Capitol this morning, in what has become an annual show and tell. Each year, Gallimore brings a real gem from the state archives, and this morning didn't disappoint.
Gallimore reminded her audience of lawmakers that the powerful National Irrigation Congress would regularly meet in the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. During its 1903 convention in Ogden, Utah, Idaho ranchers and farmers went to tell their story of how irrigation had transformed Idaho's deserts into a bounty of produce, showcasing their apples, plums, pears, grapes and peaches from the Payette Valley. The conference was so impressed that they presented Idaho their annual "Loving Cup," an impressive silver pitcher that is a valuable part of the state archives.
Gallimore added that Lt. Gov. Brad Little even took the trophy to a taping of Antiques Roadshow, which visited Boise last summer.
"Why did you allow the lieutenant governor take an artifact of that value to Antiques Roadshow?" asked JFAC co-chair Rep. Maxine Bell. "Was he accompanied by a guard or your ladies with white gloves?"
Gallimore assured Bell that indeed the cup had a full accompaniment of security, and that Antiques Roadshow had estimated the cup's value at somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000.
"Maybe that's a new source of revenue,' joked Grace Republican Rep. Marc Gibbs. "Of course, it would be one-time money."
Gallimore invited the legislators to view the cup, but cautioned them not to touch.
"Our white glove patrol is here," she said.