In the last four years, there have been drastic cuts in Medicaid support for individuals with disabilities, cuts to education budgets, only a 2% raise for public employees after years of no raises and forced furloughs … . This is our Governor’s “new normal.” Governor Butch Otter and his allies have taken us one step closer to making the “new normal” permanent. The House of Representatives has approved their proposal to cut personal income tax and corporate tax by $35 million.
As the economy shows modest signs of improving, it is hardly time to reduce state revenues. As most of you realize, the income tax cut will not benefit people at lower income levels. Currently, there are eight levels of Idaho income taxation. For a single person, the highest applies to income of $26,760 and over, at 7.8%. The level below that is for income levels from $10,035 to $26,759 at 7.4% The tax cut legislation eliminates the top category, so that all those filing singly, with taxable income $10,035 and above, will pay 7.4%. (The dollar amounts of these tax categories are indexed, so they change slightly from year to year.) The bill is in the hands of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee. I took the opportunity this morning to discuss the issue with the Chair of that committee. I hope the amount of the tax reduction will be revised downward, or it will be very difficult to support even reduced levels of vital state programs.
Recent action in Idaho’s Legislature mirrors issues discussed at the national level. Some of these I had considered resolved long ago – involving contraception and end of life decisions. House Joint Memorial 10 declares that the Affordable Health Care Act does not allow insurers, purchasers and other stakeholders with religious or moral objections to specific items of services required under the Act to decline to provide or obtain coverage of such items or services or services, or allow health care providers with such objections to decline to provide them … . Senate Bill 1348 confirms that under current law any doctor or other health care provider unwilling to conform to the desires of a patient may withdraw either form of care once the provider has made a good faith effort to assist in obtaining the services of another health care provider willing to provide the desired care, whether or not the patient’s care has actually successfully been transferred to another health care provider willing to give the patient the desired medical treatment. Senate Bill 1349 would require the use of ultrasound prior to an abortion.
Senate Bill 1301 may be interesting to you. Idaho’s High School Activities Association requires that in order for secondary schools to have full participation privileges they must meet accrediting standards of secondary schools as required by the State Board of Education. The Board has recognized the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) as the State’s accreditation body. ( NWAC has been purchased by another accreditation company.) This bill specifies that for the purpose of extracurricular activities, any secondary school located in this state that is accredited by an organization approved through a process defined by the state department of education shall be able to fully participate. I understand that this would include the accreditation process for schools such as Logos, so they would be able to participate in competitive high school sports with public high schools. This legislation is sponsored by Senator Russ Fulcher and Representative Tom Trail.
It is predicted that we will be finished with our work for this session in about three weeks. Let me know if you have questions.