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Idaho House Highlights – April 8

April 8th, 2009 by Halli

By Representative Tom Loertscher, R-31

There are times when a task seems so overwhelming or intimidating that
you would rather not be anywhere in the area. That happened to me this
week when the Idaho Education Association had a meeting in Boise and
they invited all members of the legislature to attend their
“hearing.”

JFAC does not provide a method for the public to be heard during the
budgeting process and with that in mind the IEA had this meeting so we
could “hear” their concerns. It was most interesting and in spite of
my trepidations about going, and the complaints voiced, I learned some
things. Teachers have the feeling that they are not appreciated for what
they do. Testing always comes up in these forums and I tend to agree
that testing as we have been doing it takes a lot of time away from
teaching. They favor the idea that school districts should be
consolidated. They desire that we should use our reserve funds to keep
them whole.

One of the things I really enjoy at these kinds of events is the
meeting after the meeting. Representative Ken Andrus and I talked at
length with a couple of teachers from our part of the state and it was
interesting. At first it was difficult to talk to them, because of the
pent up anger about the level of funding for schools that has come from
JFAC. We explained the consequence of using our reserves for ongoing
expenses. Those moneys can only be spent once and then in these types of
situations there is no means with which to replenish the fund. After a
few minutes of discussion they were still not happy, but at least I
think they had a better understanding about how difficult this budget
year is for the legislature. I was glad that I attended.

Another topic that has caused some turmoil is the way salaries for
state employees are being lowered. The arguments center around the
amount of the reduction and how to administer it. The technical issues
are a little complicated but the principle is if we were to approve a
lower reduction for employees than for teachers, and if we are going to
use reserve funds to make up any differences, then to be consistent I
would say that we should dip into those reserves for teachers as well.
It is not right to be willing to use those funds for one and not the
other, no matter what the consequences might be.

Another bill (S1158) making its way to the House floor is one to
partially shift medically indigent expenses from the state to the
counties and cause a property tax increase for all of the counties. This
falls in the category of an unfunded mandate, and by the way it also
will create a new level of bureaucracy in the Department of Health and
Welfare. All of this is in the name of balancing the budget. Two new
state employees to do what the counties already do. And by the way
again, this new layer of review will be paid one hundred percent by the
counties, (property taxes) no matter what it costs. I’m not making
this up, that’s what the bill says. I’m sure glad we will not be
raising taxes to balance our budget, but not so glad we will be raising
property taxes to balance the counties’ budgets.

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Posted in Education, Idaho Legislature, Property Rights, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

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