March 04, 2019: Medicaid Expansion Funded and Transportation Funding
Medicaid Expansion Funded in JFAC
Last week, the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee (JFAC) voted unanimously to fund Medicaid Expansion! This vote is a key step in implementing Medicaid Expansion in Idaho. The bill now will work its way through the House and Senate for final approval.
The House Health and Welfare Committee held a print hearing on a proposed bill to place work requirements and other restrictions (i.e. “sideboards”) on implementing Medicaid Expansion. They voted to print the bill and it will soon be returned for a full hearing in that committee.
Worse yet, in the Senate, a bill was introduced to change our initiative process. This bill would increase the requirements from 6 percent of the voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, to 10 percent of the voters in 32 of the 35 legislative districts. This is just a spiteful bill to thwart the will of the people in the future.
I am opposed to both of these bills and others that erect barriers to getting health care for our friends and neighbors. Also, the proposed restrictions will result in added costs to the State. Sixty-one percent of Idaho voters said Yes to Proposition Two, a clear directive on what Idaho citizens want.
I will continue to advocate in the Statehouse to protect a clean Medicaid Expansion (one without these sideboards). But, with these proposed “sideboard” bills under discussion, the coming weeks are also a critical time for you to voice your opinion. Both Reclaim Idaho and Close the Gap Idaho, are organizing a campaign to defeat these sideboard bills. Go to their web sites to see how you can help. Make personal contact with the legislators on the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee. And, if you have friends or relatives in their districts, ask them to contact their representatives. Together we can provide health care for all Idahoans.
Transportation Funding Choices
Earlier this year I wrote about the dilemma of funding transportation in Idaho and the crisis of maintaining our roads. As of last week, the legislature has started to vote on bills that propose to use General Fund monies for transportation projects.
This week, the Senate Transportation Committee will vote on the first bill (HB88), legislation that will change the way we fund our State Police (ISP). Currently, part of Idaho State Police’s funding comes from the gas tax. This bill would change the funding source from gas taxes to the General Fund over a five-year transition period and will provide about 17 million additional dollars annually to support transportation projects.
Additionally, a bill coming up soon proposes to extend the surplus eliminator, which directs ½ of the money in an end-of-year budget surplus to transportation projects.
Despite my unease with transfers like this, I will support these efforts to shore up our transportation system. Our local officials have told me that these funds are critical to road (safety?) and especially bridge maintenance. Since 40% of these funds go directly to local projects through cities, counties, and highway districts, these changes will have significant local and statewide impact.
During this next year, I will work with other legislators to develop a more sensible transportation funding mechanism that depends on fuel taxes, registration fees, and perhaps mileage fees.
March 9th is going to be a busy day. I will be joining Representatives Troy and Goesling in Town Hall gatherings around District 5. Here is where you can catch us:
9:00 am at the Moscow Chamber office, 411 S. Main Street.
12:00 noon at the Gateway Café In Plummer
3:00 pm at the Federal building in St Maries
We will also be in Deary on March 23rd at 1:00pm at the Deary Community Center.