I’ve had a week now to mull over Gov. Brad Little’s State-of-the-State address and the response by Senate Majority Leader Michelle Stennett.
And I feel better about this year’s legislative session.
For one thing, legislators will have their hands full evaluating the regulations state employees edited and simplified this year. They should have less time to grandstand for extreme right-wing causes.
Of course, the regulations only had to be rewritten because last year legislators failed to review the former ones–still one can hope.
And I learned three interesting things from Little’s and Stennett’s statements.
One, our rainy day fund has reached its goal. Little says we must up the goal; Stennett says let’s see just what programs will suffer before we make a two percent across-the-board cut. Previous cuts have handicapped some agencies.
That sets the stage for compromise. No one can deny that our current growth cycle cannot continue forever. Yet, we need to invest in our infrastructure and future.
This isn’t a battle between good and evil..
The goal is to find balance between two goods.
Two, I was surprised to learn that the new sales tax on out-of-state on-line purchases is bringing in $6 to $7 million each month.
Idahoans are purchasing over $120,000,000 in goods on-line each month? Imagine if we were inserting that much more into our local economies. I can see I need to make some changes.
Unfortunately, former legislative majorities have ruled that this new tax money will not go to fund Medicaid Expansion or improve schools or repair roads or bridges.
No, it is designated for tax relief only.
Nothing screams “Republican” like not trusting the administration or, to some extent, future legislators to make decisions as wise as your own.
Not that tax relief is bad. Democrats support ending the sales tax on groceries and upping the home-owners exemption from property taxes. Both would help Idahoans across the board rather than favoring the wealthiest among us.
Now, Little doesn’t want to go so far as to end the sales tax on groceries–that’d cut about $100 million from the budget.
But he is for using $35 million from the restricted fund to increase the sales tax refund for groceries from $100 to $125.
That’s not the best deal for large families and those with so little income that they don’t have to file. Still, it will help a lot of working people.
That’s a good compromise proposal, and I wish it well.
Three, I learned that ⅔ of Idaho’s prisoners are in jail because of parole violations.
At first I thought that was mainly people serving time for deeds that are only offenses for parolees–like having a gun in their car or going across the state border without permission. But such offenses are more likely result in longer probation with closer supervision.
Many of these prisoners may be in for a second offense as bad or worse than the first.
Still, it’s an extremely high rate for any state.
Gov. Little proposes a two-step program: over 800 new beds for inmates (500 of them out-of-state) and two programs to help parolees reenter society.
The Governor earmarked lots of money for “high-risk” parolees and a only a fraction as much for community recovery centers.
I’d prefer to see the priorities reversed, but, again, we’re seeking a compromise between two goods–and a middle ground will be found.
Less surprising–but welcome–are the Governor’s proposals to increase education spending, fund Medicaid Expansion, offer new university courses in cybersecurity, and spend $100 million on infrastructure.
If the legislature follows through, Idahoans will benefit.