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House Highlights – Session Wrap-up

April 9th, 2008 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher

As I have read some of the media reports of what occurred during the last three months in Boise, I wondered if I had been in the same place. No two observers are going to agree on what was accomplished let alone the 105 members of the two bodies.

Some interesting differences from other sessions are quite notable. Budgets this year were set at less than half of the increase that was desired by the Governor. That’s a good thing especially given that our revenues are flat or declining. April is a pivotal month for tax collections and what happens on the fifteenth of this month will be a good predictor of how wisely the budget was set.

For the first time in memory, the legislature did not have a “Christmas Tree” bill. Usually there is a bill that has a little bit of something for everybody to “Take home the bacon.” Even though there was some one time money appropriated, it was done on needs rather than wants.

Another bit of good news is that the Grocery Tax Credit was increased for the first time in a very long time and will go up each year until it reaches one hundred dollars. The right way to handle grocery sales tax is to reduce it or eliminate it altogether. That idea never seems to get passed the legislature let alone the Governor.

Some reduction in the personal property tax is on the way but will happen only when state revenues exceed five percent growth. That definitely won’t happen this year and probably not next year either. The biggest problem with this tax is that over the years we have allowed too many things to be classified as personal property that in reality should be real property. I rather suspect that this little item will be revisited.

Another first this year was the way the session ended. Legislation was being worked on until the last hour of the last day. Customarily, there is a lot of waiting the last couple of days of the season for things to travel between the two bodies and the governor’s office. The State Affairs Committee in the House for example was still working on legislation in the final few hours.

One big disappointment was a compromise worked out on a constitutional amendment that failed in the Senate by one vote. That measure was to make sure that publicly owned
hospitals could finance facility construction and cities with power generating facilities could enter into long term contracts for electricity.

It was a history making affair this year in that it was the first session of the legislature ever to meet outside of the State Capital. For as cramped as the quarters were, the mood in the old courthouse was good for the most part. We had our moments for sure but not what had been predicted. Also of note is that in the House at least, we were able to get it done with seven fewer staff than previously. Why? There just was no room. We adapted well to our temporary quarters. We did the serious business of the state without taking ourselves too seriously. That in and of itself is quite an accomplishment.

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

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