Senator Agenbroad's 2018 District 13 Legislative Outlook
Here are a few thoughts about some of the topics I’ve followed over the last several months leading up to the 2018 Idaho Legislative session. This is by no means a complete list. Undoubtedly, there will be many more topics and issues for the legislature to address in the coming months.
Revenue: Idaho’s revenue outlook is very strong with a projected surplus of over $100 million after addressing the agencies’ $29 million supplemental requests from the general fund. The surplus is both good and bad news. The good news is the state is doing well, driven by a strong economy and low unemployment. The bad news is there will be more requests than we have resources to fund. The question that should be asked is do we return the excess to the taxpayers through a reduction in taxes or do we utilize the money to fund Idaho’s priorities?
Taxes: The big news here is the Federal income tax reduction bill passed at the end of the year. Idaho has historically been a tax conformity state meaning we allow the use of a tax payer’s federal tax return to be the starting point of their state tax return. The state then applies the state’s lower tax rate along with a few other items like specific tax deductions/credits that apply to Idaho taxpayers. The federal tax bill changed much more than the income tax tables. Many other items changed in the bill including personal exemptions/deductions, child tax credit, among other items that will have a significant effect on Idaho’s income tax collections. We’ll need to understand the effects before proposing conformity or changes for the 2018 tax year.
Income tax vs Grocery Sales tax: I expect this discussion to continue into the 2018 session. The legislature overwhelmingly passed an elimination of the grocery tax at the end of the 2017 session. The Governor vetoed the bill and has stated he hasn’t changed his position and will veto it again if passed through the legislature. I’ve also heard others say the legislature has enough votes to override a veto if passed earlier in the session. No doubt discussions will continue relating to reducing the State’s income tax rate.
Transportation: The 2017 legislature passed $300 million additional GARVEE authority to address the needs of Idaho’s roads. Nampa and Caldwell will benefit from the majority of these funds to widen a long neglected stretch of Interstate 84. We’re counting on ITD to manage this major project with as little disruption as possible, on time completion, at or under budget. I hope this isn’t too much to ask.
Education: I expect additional funding in Education consistent with the 5 year plan. I’ve had a number of conversations regarding some of the burdensome and ineffective measurements that resulted. These should be addressed and replaced with effective measurements and accountability to Idaho citizens and their children. It remains important that we continue to invest in the future of our great state and expect results from the resources we invest. Other things to watch are the committees’ recommendations on a new school funding formula and higher education.
Economy: Idaho’s economy is very strong with a few exceptions, including agriculture. It remains important that we continue to invest in our future both through appropriate use of our resources as well as removing unnecessary regulatory burdens.
Healthcare: Access to affordable healthcare continues to be a challenge both at the federal and state level. The cost of care for the average citizen continues to spiral out of control driven by a healthcare delivery system that is broken at all levels including the consumer, provider, and payer. Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions in this complex system that is primarily driven and funded at the federal level. Despite the fed’s control Idaho can work to improve the State’s access to affordable healthcare. The Idaho Departments of Insurance and Health and Welfare are requesting two federal waivers in an effort to provide more affordable coverage for chronically ill patients and reduce insurance premiums for others. My hope is that this is only the beginning of many improvements we can make in US and Idaho’s healthcare system.
The 2018 Legislature session will begin on January 8th along with the Governor’s State of the State address. I’m looking forward to a productive session on behalf of the Citizens of District 13 and the State of Idaho.
Senator Jeff Agenbroad