The year is quickly coming to an end. I wish everyone a joyous Holiday Season as our families gather to celebrate Christmas. A much needed addition would be some snow so all can enjoy their favorite winter activities. The sooner the better! Think Snow!
Our session starts Jan. 9th. and we will get a feel for the direction legislation will go when Governor Otter presents his State of the State message. While Idaho is showing growth in job creation and a lowering of the unemployment rate, our economy is expanding rather anemically. Definitely not enough to put money into the rainy day funds, fill the holes in budgets created by one time stimulus funds, or back fill all the budget cuts of the past 4 years. My priorities would have to include:
Mental Health where far too many individuals have had to forgo medications and other forms of treatment. This is unjustifiable for individuals and society.
Education needs some tweaks to the 3 Luna bills plus additional funds if we are to carry out their mandates. Higher Education is the vehicle to help get us out of the economic doldrums. Our Community Colleges, Colleges, and Universities need to retrain the unemployed and also bring on a new crop of young people with skills that will build our economy and do it at more affordable prices.
Without jobs these new workers will languish or move out of state so we do need to focus on job creation. Look for the I-JOBS 2 package the Democrat Caucus will be putting forth.
Running government smarter includes not passing unconstitutional laws that our Attorney General has to defend and lose after expensive court battles. Having the power to pass a bill on ideology does not make it constitutional or even practical. i.e. Nullification of mandated health care and the constitutional but controversial “guns on campus” bills which are coming back.
There will be a push to lower the corporate income tax to spur business investment. Many feel the reduced revenue should be offset by businesses giving up something else like their investment tax credit or some other reductions that keep the revenue stream moving in the right direction. One of the suggestions for an offset has been to do away with the grocery tax refund. Not something I would favor even though I think the present refund procedure is inefficient and not particularly effective for our low income citizens. Along the lines of additional tax revenue I would support Idaho’s joining the national movement to tax internet sales. This would really help local businesses stay competitive with their internet competitors and capture sales taxes already owed to the State.
The Legislature, early on, will be reviewing rules affecting poultry production, oil and natural gas drilling including the “fracking” process, wolf management, and off road vehicle usage, each controversial Natural Resource issues.