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House and Senate floors – In Overdrive

I debated on the House floor to remind people the money we are allocating is obligating our children & grandchildren to our debt.

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Rep. Karey Hanks – District 35

Spring has sprung!

COMMITTEES AND LEGISLATION

This week is “crunch time”—many bills are being pushed to the House and Senate floors—so we are in overdrive studying bills to ensure we don’t “break the bank” with more and more spending. The goal was to finish the session this Friday. The House voted on 12 appropriations on Tuesday. I debated on the House floor to remind people that the money we are allocating to various agencies is obligating our children and grandchildren to our debt. How is that? Our state receives over 30% in funding from the federal government. Technically, we do not have a balanced budget.  Health & Welfare is funded with 61% or $1.7 billion of federal money. Leaders were touting a $140+ million surplus at the beginning of the year. So where has it gone? Legislators are voting for more and more FTP’s (fulltime personnel), which includes benefits and PERSI (retirement). Meanwhile, a bill to eliminate the tax on groceries has been proposed, with Governor Otter opposing it. Several of us are insisting our citizens get this relief.  I believe we need to quit spending—“turn off the money spending spigot!”

One note:  Health & Welfare Chairman Fred Wood stated that Medicaid expansion will not be introduced this year.

OTHER LEGISLATION

In the Senate State Affairs committee S1182 was introduced.  It is a bill meant to clarify how parents are exempt from being accused of child neglect if they choose only prayer and spiritual healing to treat their sick or hurt child.  The bill leaves gaping questions in determining exactly what is meant by the terms “medical care,” “likely to result in serious injury,” and “compelling government interest.” This bill failed Tuesday, 11-24.

On Thursday afternoon, the Senate Transportation Committee considered transportation bills, which did not pass to the House. The latest and greatest transportation bill is being negotiated presently, which does include GARVEE (read: borrowing funds). Is it really necessary to BORROW money for roads when we came into this session with an unexpected surge of tax revenues to the tune of $140?

ABOUT TEACHERS’ PAY

While the Education budget is about 60% of our state budget, we lose teachers to other states who are willing to pay more. Many decisions are now made at the state level, with the State Board of Education determining rules and how districts will be run. We approved the teacher pay budget Monday. It could have been higher if we had not wasted it in other areas/agencies.   Rep. Ron Nate has been watching the spending items.  When he sees a spending line-item which could be spent on teacher salaries (pay is important to attract and retain good teachers in Idaho–especially in math and the sciences), he puts it in an “overspending tracker.”  He calculates how much could have been added to the paycheck of each of Idaho’s 15,985 teachers with that spending, and/or how many new teachers we could have hired with that spending.  In economics, it is called this “opportunity cost.”

This far into the session (and there are still a few more spending bills coming through the House), the following bills have been identified:

  •     Number of bills with overspending items:  67
  •     Amount of dollars of overspending:  $54,227,210
  •     How much each teacher’s salary could increase:  $3,392.38 per yr.

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BACK NEXT WEEK…

We are working through many bills, including many more Appropriations.  I am supporting a vote to repeal the grocery tax. We are all anxious to return home, but it is important to get millions of dollars in legislation right, which means spending some thousands to stay a little longer.

I’m rushing this week’s edition a little—thank you for your understanding!