Happy New Year! With the start of a new year comes the start of Idaho’s annual legislative session. IAC staff have been working to develop new tools to better communicate with the membership to help keep you informed of legislative proceedings in Boise. In addition to maintaining the IAC bill tracker on the IAC website, IAC will send out a weekly legislative eBulletin providing summaries of legislation being tracked by IAC staff, the impact on counties, and ways you can engage your legislators to advance the interests of counties and your constituents.
The second important tool will be frequent legislative alerts. Legislative alerts will focus on legislation of immediate concern to counties and include bill summaries, estimated impacts on counties, requests for information from counties, and links to email addresses of legislators to facilitate your ability to communicate with them in a timely manner.
Starting today, legislative eBulletins will be emailed to all IAC members on a weekly basis. Legislative alerts will be emailed to more targeted groups on an as needed basis. Legislative eBulletins and legislative alerts will have their own distinctive look and feel. This will help you identify the time-sensitive legislative alerts as soon as you open the email. Please let us know what you think of these new tools. We’ll continue to make modifications until we get it right.
– Seth Grigg, IAC Executive Director
What to Watch
As the Legislature convenes in Boise, there are three things IAC will be watching for in the month of January:
One of the most surprising developments this past week was news that federal tax reform would actually increase revenues to the state general fund by $95 million. This is because Idaho conforms its state tax code with the federal tax code. Because Idaho does not have a child tax credit like the federal government, Idaho families will actually pay more in state income taxes in 2018 than they will in 2017. Because of this, there will be a lot of talk about tax reform in Idaho.
That extra $95 million would go a long way toward paying for a repeal of the sales tax on groceries; however, the threat of a Gubernatorial veto of a grocery tax repeal remains.
Governor Otter is proposing an $85 per child tax credit for Idaho families to help offset the potential tax increase on Idaho families.
Governor Otter has also laid out a plan to reduce both personal and corporate income tax rates to provide additional tax relief to Idaho families and businesses.
IACI is once again advocating for increasing the business personal property tax exemption to $250,000 as well as allowing individual counties to exempt any remaining business personal property as a county option property tax exemption.
Governor Otter has called for a reduction in the state unemployment tax. His proposed reductions are estimated to result in a 30% tax savings to Idaho employers and has no impact on the state general fund.
Legislation has been drafted to provide what are known as waivers to certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). Idaho is requesting two waivers to the ACA, one which would allow those in the “gap” population (those who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but too little money to qualify for ACA tax credits) to qualify for tax credits for the purchase of health insurance through the Idaho exchange and another that would allow certain severely ill Idahoans (estimated to be between 3,500 and 4,500) to qualify for Medicaid. It is estimated that receiving the two waivers would both expand access to health coverage in Idaho and reduce the overall cost of health coverage in Idaho. Counties are beginning to see expenses related to county indigent claims increase after several years of decline. While we don’t know if this is a new trend, granting access to health care to more Idahoans will reduce overall indigent medical expenses to counties. The dual waiver authorization was introduced for consideration on Monday, it is not known at this point if the dual waiver proposal has broad support in the Legislature.
Budget Surplus Eliminator Funding
A drafting error in legislation last year authorizing annual budget surplus revenue to be used on state and local highway projects has put in jeopardy nearly $27.5 million in new road funding through the program and Governor Otter has not included the $27.5 million in his formal legislative budget request. Legislators have indicated their support for the road funding and are working on a fix. We hope to see movement on budget surplus funding for state and local highways within the first few weeks of the session.
IAC staff are working closely with legislators and committee chairs to begin scheduling introductory hearings for IAC’s legislative priorities. These priorities include:
Increasing the justice property tax levy cap from .002 to .0025,
Establishing reasonable minimum records retention guidelines for digital law enforcement records,
Clarifying the timeframe for applying delinquent tax payments,
Allowing of online publishing of public notices,
Clarifying the timeframe for accruing interest on property included on the supplemental and missed property tax rolls,
Removing requirements for separate early voting plans for each election,
Lowering the minimum age to serve as a poll worker from 17 to 16, and
Working with the legislature on a concurrent resolution asking Congress to provide a payment in lieu of taxes for private lands transferred to the federal government.
Look for more information on IAC’s legislative priorities in future legislative eBulletins.