Newsletter: February 19, 2018

February 19, 2018

Idaho Economy
The Idaho economy continues to grow well above all projections. Year-to-date revenue collections grew $240.1 million over original projections, or 11.8% over last year’s revenue. This increase provides Idaho with enough money to fund the statutory commitments to education, health & welfare, and the corrections system by protecting our citizens. Education alone will receive an increase of over $100 million. Funds will go toward salary increases, reading programs from kindergarten through the third grade, and discretionary dollars to pay for health insurance for school district employees.

Tax Relief
Federal tax cuts will lead to cuts on Idahoans’ federal tax filings. When Idaho conforms to the federal tax code, the federal tax cut makes some state taxes go up for some Idahoans. That will result in an increase to state tax revenues of about $97 million. The legislature believes the $97 million should rightfully be returned to Idaho citizens. There is clearly enough revenue to fully fund Idaho’s state budget requirements and provide an additional $100 million in income tax relief.

House Bill 463 (HB463) passed the House with a supermajority (passed with a two-thirds vote). HB463 is now in the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee and is sponsored by the Governor, Speaker, House Majority leader, Senate Pro Tem, and Senate Majority Leader. HB463 provides approximately $202 million in tax relief and responsibly leaves enough money in the General Fund to fund state government.

Wolf Control
There continues to be costly wolf/livestock and wolf/elk and deer encounters. This never ends well for our ranchers’ livestock and Idaho’s wildlife. Over the last 5 years, there has been a wolf control board consisting of the Directors of the Idaho Fish & Game Department, Idaho Department of Agriculture, and several others. Whenever there is a problem pack of wolves that have killed livestock or wildlife, the committee has authorized those wolves to be removed by the Federal U.S. Fish & Wildlife government trappers.

This program is funded by the livestock industry, sportsmen, and the General Fund. The enacting legislation has a 5-year sunset clause, which causes the board and funding to dissolve, absent action by the legislature to keep the board going. Since livestock and wildlife encounters continue, the House Agriculture Committee introduced legislation to continue the wolf control board for several more years. It will come to the Senate Agriculture Committee sometime for a hearing. I anticipate this legislation to pass the committee, pass on the Senate floor, and be signed by the Governor.

Joint Finance & Appropriations Committee (JFAC)
The JFAC committee will complete hearings from all state agencies this week. A deciding vote will be made on the amount of pay and benefits for state employees. I anticipate the committee will choose to provide a 3% pay increase to state employees. Once that decision is made, and that vote is taken, JFAC will immediately begin setting budgets, which will take about 3 weeks to complete.

JFAC will begin meeting at 7:00 am until about 11:00 am during those 3 weeks to set budgets. Committee members either choose or are assigned several of the different agency budgets to review. Since the first week of the session, I have been working on seven or eight Health & Welfare budgets; the Department of Fish and Game, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Species Conservation, and Department of Water Resources budgets; and about six or seven smaller budgets. There is much work to do in reviewing programs, line items, replacement items and other intricacies of each budget.

Following budget setting, it takes about two weeks to draft the appropriations bills and move them through the system; then the Idaho Legislature plans to adjourn by the end of March. It is a pleasure to serve the exceptional folks in Bingham County. I am honored to serve you!

Senate Bills to Track

SB1208 Agricultural Labor – allows for the use of inmate labor in production.

SB1222 Education – Bolsters Career Technical Education Secondary programs and incentive funding.

SB1229 Secretary of State – streamlines submission of early voting notification process for both the county and the Secretary of State.

SB1267 Education – Establishes a Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) diploma. A STEM diploma should help those who receive it with scholarship applications, college admittance applications and job resumes.

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