[Vision2020] Legislative Update 13 from Rep. Trail - March 17-21

ttrail at moscow.com ttrail at moscow.com
Fri Mar 21 22:10:17 PDT 2008



We hope to be out of Boise sometime next week.  Most committees are closed
down, and there are only about three big major issues to resolve.  The pen
the Governor used to sign the dog fighting/felony bill is now on E Bay and
the price yesterday was up to $355.00.  Money will go to the local animal
shelter in Moscow.  On Tuesday Rep. Shirley Ringo, Carl Hulquist, Fran
Halstead, and I will meet with Governor Otter as he signs HB501--protection
of addresses of victims of domestic violence.  HJM11--Scenic Rivers and
Wilderness Act passed unanimously in the Senate.  I also co-sponsored a
House Concurrent Resolution calling for a study of concurrent enrollment.
This resolution passed and is funded at $50,000.  The State Board of
Education will take this topic up at its meeting in Lewiston next week.  I
also filed last week to run for office this fall.  Today I had my annual
checkup with my cardiologist and came out 100% okay.   Dr. Writer will type
up a letter which I can use during the campaign if the question of my
health comes up as a campaign issue.   The last remaining issues for the
legislature to deal with:

 1.  SB1447--This is a proposal to cap medical benefits for current state
employee retirees and to eliminate medical retirement benefits for future
hires.  The bill has cleared the Senate.  If this becomes law I can see its
impact on recruiting new hires as state employees or trying to retain
outstanding state employees who were promised health benefits upon
retirement.  It sounds like the old story of the "Field of Broken Promises"
carried out by a local university.

     Under the new plan those retirees between 55 and 65 would see benefits
capped at $1,800.  Upon reaching eligibility for Medicare the benefits
would be cut.  State employees hired after June 30th would receive no
retirement medical benefits.  Many state workers for years were promised
full health benefits on retirement.  Proponents say the bill will save the
state more than $400 million over time.  Many state workers took early
retirement based on the state's promise of the state to cover these costs.
 UI retirees put their trust in the institution to cover health benefits
upon retirement as part of the early retirement package.  The University
conveniently forgot their commitment.  The issue will be on the State Board
of Education's Agenda in Moscow on April 18th at 8:30 am.  SB1447 should
come to the House Human Resources Committee.  We are working on a proposal
to pull together a resolution calling for a study committee to work on the
issue between sessions.

 2.  HB599--Elimination of business personal property tax--The Idaho
Association of Commerce and Industry is the big sponsor of this bill.  Over
time it would eliminate about $110 million in personal property taxes.  I
was told early in the session the bill would be revenue neutral--or no
impact on counties.  However, our County Commissioners, Pat Vaughn the
Latah County Assessor, and Connie Ferguson, Treasurer, and other have run
the figures and basically in order to compensate the loss of personal
property tax the Commissioners would have to raise property taxes to make
up the loss--perhaps as high as $5 million.  Mayor Nancy Chaney is also
against the bill.

     There was a proposal to put a cap of $50,000 per business.  This would
have only cost about $10 million and covered 80% of the small businesses.
There is great worry even among conservative legislators that with the
downturn in the economy it will draw down the state revenue tax stream. If
the bill passes it means that more millions in taxes will be shifted to
individual tax payers.  As former legislator, Rep. Ken Robison said, "This
will be another step in a 30 year pattern of legislative policy: raising
taxes paid mostly by individual taxpayers to give tax cuts to businesses."

 3.  HJM4--This is the proposed constitutional amendment that if enacted
would allow local entities, i.e. counties to run local option tax proposals
to fund specific infrastructure projects.  The problem is that it would
require a supermajority vote.  In Latah County both the City and the County
are studying a proposal to build a combined Law Enforcement Center.  Under
existing statute a local option could be run that would only require a 60%
majority; however, the statute that authorizes this sunsets in mid-2009. 
Jack Nelson, Latah County Commissioner, favors the amendment as does the
Idaho Association of Counties.  The Idaho Association of Cities is not in
favor.  My guess is that HJM4 will narrowly pass the House but it will have
major problems in the Senate.

 4.  Transportation--The Governor has been trying raise an additional
$200,000,000 for transportation infrastructure.  His $150 registration fee
proposal was rejected, but the House did pass GARVEE funding for
$134,000,000.  There are a series of House bill geared to raise more
funds-H631 would raise registration fees for various types of trucks; H632
raises registration by $24 for pickups, and all other vehicles having a
weight under 8,000.  This is predicted to raise $30 million. There are
other proposals to increase a surcharge of $10 on special license plates,
place a 4% tax on the daily lease or rental rates of leased cars, etc.  If
all these pieces fit together it could raise between $45-$110 million. 
These will be debated this coming week.

 5.  Grocery Tax Credit--The bill was passed by the Senate today and now
goes to the Governor for signing.

These are the major issues remaining in the Legislative session.  I'll
probably wait until Sine Die to send out a wrap up newsletter.  Please send
your comments to me by e mail to ttrail at idaho.gov

Rep. Tom Trail

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