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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, January 24

January 26th, 2011 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

It’s always a bit tricky to put a budget together. Even down on the farm that’s the case and it’s no different around this place. One of the problems we as humans have is that we tend to think that income sources will be flat over time, or even increasing slightly. When we get good prices for our commodities on the farm we tend to assume that those revenues will stay up for the foreseeable future. That is rarely the case and in government things don’t seem to be any different. We have made a lot of assumptions in our revenue projections for the coming year that will have to come to pass in order for our budget to be balanced.

The budget still seems to be the big item of discussion around the legislature. Some around here are saying that we have made history this year already in that the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee has been inviting other germane committees to sit with them as the budgets from the agencies are discussed. This definitely is a first and I think it is been helpful for members of the various committees to get a feel of how the budget numbers are put together. Another first began this week when the budget committee opened up their meetings to public comment. Education had their go around and it was interesting to get the take of a lot of educators that came to discuss Superintendent Luna’s “new” ideas.

My phone has been ringing with calls from home having concerns about Internet classes for all high school students. One thing is for certain. If this new program is not well-designed and is not something that will work well, and there is not teacher buy-in, it would be doomed from the outset. I can’t help but think that technology in the classroom is essential for our students to keep up in these times. I know there are programs out there that work well and we have to implement them correctly if we do it at all. After talking to several this past week, I think I will have to be convinced that this is a good thing. For now I am trying to keep an open mind and am doing some research.

The house health and welfare committee met a couple of times this week with JFAC to hear the Department of Health and Welfare cover its budget. There wasn’t a whole lot new expressed there, and they told us that they are trying their best to get their arms around making their budget work. It seemed to me that most of the difficulty we have with this budget lies in the optional programs Idaho has embraced over the years. E-mails are coming in from all over the state wanting us not to cut any of these programs. And I have to admit that we have to be careful that we don’t eliminate the less costly items and drive Medicaid folks to more expensive service providers.

About ten days ago I was watching Fox news and saw an interview with Gov. Huckabee. He pretty well expressed what happens in the states with regard to their budgets. He said that most of the states money is spent in three areas, to educate, medicate and incarcerate. In Idaho, 90 to 95% of our budget goes to those three areas.

After Gov. Otter made the announcement that Sen. Geddes would be moving to the Tax Commission, it was interesting to see all of the scurrying around that has occurred. One member of the Senate told me that because of the resignation there had to be a complete reorganization of the Senate. It involved the switching of offices and new committee assignments for some. One Senator even commented to me that now he had an office with a window. As my mother would have put it, “Oh brother.”

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

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