Week 11 (1st week of the COVID two-week recess) for the Idaho legislative session is complete. Of course, no legislative work was done between the House and the Senate this past week, and most member have returned home. They plan to return April 6th and try to finish their work.
The Governor’s office has continued to operate without delay, and they are systematically going through the bills that have been sent to him for action.
At the beginning of the session the governor laid out an initiative called “Building Idaho’s Future.” This plan outlined $336 million in strategic investment and tax relief for Idaho. So far the governor’s office has signed into law four major pieces of legislation that were part of that initiative. Currently Idaho has approximately $500 million of surplus, not including the $300 million set-aside for “Building Idaho’s Future” and $20 million in unused COVID relief funds. The four pieces of legislation that have been passed and signed by the governor are as follows:
S1121 Water Projects- This legislation authorized $50 million of spending for the expansion of Anderson Ranch Reservoir; new water supply for Mountain Home Air Force Base; and funding increase for water recharge of the Eastern Snake River Aquifer. These projects have been developed over the past few years and because of new funding available they are now ready to be completed.
H0225 Public Buildings- Is an additional $90 million investment into Idaho’s Permanent Building Fund. These funds will be allocated to capital projects (new buildings), alterations, and repairs of existing state-owned buildings. Even with this investment the state of Idaho has between $700 to $800 million in deferred maintenance of existing buildings, so these funds are critical.
H0204 Parks Improvement- This legislation provides $3 million to improve Idaho state parks. H204 was the most closely contested bill and just barely passed in the House 35–33. Idaho had a record number of visitors to its parks last year at 7.7 million visitors.
H0205 Law Enforcement- This legislation allocated $964,000 to the Idaho State Police for new rifles; new body cameras; new non-lethal-force riot batons, and more. The governor made a point to say that “though some places seek to defund the police, I am proud to say that Idaho defends the police”.
Still on the list of priorities for “Building Idaho’s Future” are appropriations for the remaining $20 million of Federal funds from the Cares Act for education to address learning loss in Idaho. A $35 million state appropriation as well as the remaining $15 million in CARES act funding for broadband infrastructure. Finally, the governor also asked to see tax relief for Idaho citizens as part of the plan. As we have reported previously, there are several tax reduction plans floating around. It is still unclear which of the tax cut plans will pass but it is highly likely that we will see a reduction in individual and corporate income tax, a reduction in the sales tax rate, or a combination of the two.
On the Vaccination front, the governor’s office announced this week that they were able to move up eligibility phases for vaccinations due to fewer people signing up and increased dosages available. As of Thursday March 25th, all people over the age of 45 are eligible and by April 5th everyone over the age of 16 will be able to schedule and receive their immunizations.Week 11 (1st week of the COVID two-week recess) for the Idaho legislative session is complete. Of course, no legislative work was done between the House and the Senate this past week, and most member have returned home. They plan to return April 6th and try to finish their work.