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House Highlights – March 26

March 27th, 2008 by Halli

By Representative Tom Loertscher

It seems for some reason we usually want to leave the heavy lifting in a legislative session until the very last. We lived up to that reputation as we dealt with most of the appropriations bills in the House this week. Two of the transportation budgets were among them.

The main transportation spending plan, which is funded entirely from non general fund sources, was approved without much discussion. The other measure was the GARVEE (more debt for roads) bill that borrows an additional 134 million dollars for construction. The Best debate of the day went to Rep. Leon Smith of Twin Falls who gave the best reasons why all of this borrowing is not a good idea. His best point was that after this new amount is borrowed, we will be the most heavily leveraged state that uses the GARVEE road funding mechanism.

After getting warmed up on GARVEE about the next bill out of the chute was a resolution to authorize borrowing seventy million dollars to build a new secure mental health facility. There have been some cash reserves set aside for this project but we seem to be in the borrowing mood these days. Even more troubling is the design of the facility that will in allow mentally ill persons who have not committed a crime but have violent behaviors to be in “prison.” Still more troubling is the possibility of mixing the aforementioned individuals with those who have committed and been convicted of crimes.

The public school budgets all passed the House easily as well. The ISTARS proposal did not get passed, so the result was to put the available resources into the budget for teacher salary increases and benefit costs. Several of our school districts were concerned about the discretionary funds portions of the budget. I was told that there has been a relaxing of the restrictions on those moneys.

After all of the discussion about election consolidation that has been taking place for the entire session, the sponsors asked for the bill to be held in the State Affairs Committee. There were too many problems to iron out before the end of this session. It was obvious to the committee however, that not enough homework had been done by the sponsors with the affected parties — counties, cities, taxing districts and the Secretary of State.

The Minority party proposed a two cent sales tax on gas and diesel for Transportation. What does that mean for fuel costs? That’s six cents plus per gallon of Gas and eight cents per gallon of diesel at current prices. Their idea for registration fees was to double them in most cases. That includes farm trucks, semis and cars. This may be popular somewhere, but I’ve been unable to find out where.

“The boxes are in the hall,” (we’re all issued boxes to take our files, etc.) is the cry around the chambers which is the strongest signal that this will soon be at an end for another year. Did I mention that the Governor line item vetoed an appropriation bill? It was one of his budgets. Strange you may say, strange indeed.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Property Rights, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

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