Don’t tell me what your priorities are, show me how you spend your money.

James W Frick

What About the Money?

The legislative session kicked off, even before the session officially started with the Income projection committee. I was a co-chair of this Joint Committee of the House and the Senate. We were assigned to come up with the amount of money we expected to have as income for fiscal year 2023. 

 Last year, the increase in income was about 20% higher than the legislature projected. So this year, we probably couldn’t miss by that much! After three days of work, listening to financial experts from around the state, and seeing endless charts and graphs, we agreed on a number. We estimate income from state sources to the general fund of $5.4 Billion.

The main reason for all this unanticipated income is that the state’s economy is booming! People have money, and they are spending it. Businesses are working hard, and they are making money. So, the income taxes and the sales taxes are much higher than predicted.

Added to that is the fact that our population continues to be the number 1 state for population increase per 1000 in the united states.

More people, more sales, more profitable businesses makes your state’s financial position excellent.

What should be done?
I think we should manage this money like you would run your business on a good year. 

  • Pay any debt
  • Spend on deferred maintenance
  • Buy capitol expenses you have put off
  • Invest in savings
  • Be reluctant to commit to long term, ongoing obligations

How Idaho businesses run their operations is a good place to start on how to run the state’s business. This will be hard to do, because every government department wants to hire more people. They all have their reasons, but I will be very unenthusiastic.

Education

My efforts will center around how we can provide some property tax relief to landowners by shifting responsibility for school funding back to the state. This is particularly important for rural Idaho…which is 80% of the state. The levy system of providing additional funds for education is a failed experiment for rural Idaho. However, urban Idaho is doing well. Here are some ideas.

  • Take optional all-day kindergarten off the property tax rolls.
  • Add additional money to health insurance for teachers to help districts costs.
  • Support policy to get teachers into the state health insurance pool

I am working on a dyslexia bill, intended to save money by identifying the 20% of our kids suffering from this learning disability. Right now, they are not being identified and instead are channeled to Federal Title 1 programs…the most expensive educational effort we have.

Parents rights will be an issue this year in the legislature. I totally support parent’s rights. We need to find a way to do this, in partnership to better schools. I am working on legislation to do this.

Transportation/Broadband

One of the issues that’s critical to laying fiber to improve broadband service is digging ditches to lay conduit. The fiber that carries broadband messages is pulled through these conduits. Unfortunately, there is no good policy that business or the Idaho transportation Department can depend on for planning. 

I am working with industry to develop legislation that will get a, “Dig Once,” policy in place that will speed up fiber installation and speed up delivery of high speed internet to Idahoans.