Week 1. Governor Little focuses on Education
I just completed my first week of the 2019 Idaho Legislative session. It was an exciting week with lots of pomp and meetings and discussion of the hot topics of this session. Here are my impressions of the week.
Governor’s State of the State
Raising Idaho’s starting teacher pay to $40,000 a year
Funding the fifth year of the teacher “career ladder” pay plan
Fund master teacher premiums
$13 million increase in literacy funding to schools to increase reading proficiency and help ensure that students are reading at grade level by third grade
2.88 percent funding boost for Idaho’s four-year colleges and universities next year
I would like to invest more effort and resources into education to lift Idaho out of the basement in education ratings, and I will happily support Governor Little in these priorities.
Governor Little committed to implementing Proposition Two (Medicaid Expansion), although he wants to do it in an “Idaho way”. He did not propose any additional funding or requirements or sideboards, so I trust the “Idaho way” is with minimal added bureaucracy. Stay tuned.
The first week of the legislative session is when the picture gets a little clearer on state revenue for the next fiscal year. This forecast is a driving force in what we can fund in the Governor’s and the legislature’s priorities. This year is especially difficult because of all the changes in tax law in 2018. Both the federal government and Idaho dramatically changed our income tax systems last year.
Despite the confusion most of the expert economists predict increasing revenue and Governor Little followed suit with a general fund forecast of $4.07 billion. The legislature, by nature being more cautious, forecast revenue at $93.2 million less than the Governor’s estimate.
I found it interesting how the legislature came to this forecast. The committee listened to several days of testimony from experts and representatives of different business interests around the state. They let the Governor make his estimate and then all the members of the committee made their own estimates. In the end they choose the median value of all committee members’ estimates. There is a load of interesting information in the testimony to the committee you can find here. I found it a fascinating education on the economy of our state.
Stay tuned on this subject. The legislature has a couple more places to improve the forecast as more data is reported.
Proposition 2 (Medicaid Expansion)
Proposition 2 is on everyone’s mind in the session. I hear lots of [noise] (chatter? discussion?) about added requirements on Prop 2 (like a work requirement) but I’m not hearing much on not implementing it. I am pleased to be on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee so I will do my best to prevent any added bureaucracy. I see a couple of big events coming up regarding Proposition 2:
In the next couple of weeks, Senate Health and Welfare, and possible jointly with the House Committee, will hear expert testimony on the issue.
In early February there will be a joint meeting of the Senate and House Health and Welfare committees to take public testimony.
Both of these events will be in a big auditorium at the capital and be streamed live. I will post on social media when I have dates and details
If you have any issues you are concerned about, please call or email me at the statehouse. I look forward to helping everyone I possibly can.
I will be back on district 5 on January 26th I will be at
Moscow Chamber of Commerce at 9:00 for a legislative
Somewhere in rural Latah county for Lunch
On February 1st I will be in Moscow with Representative Matt Erpelding( minority leader of the house) for a legislative update. Matt and I are also traveling all North and Central Idaho to do legislative updates for those counties without a Democratic Legislator.