There seems to be some movement on appropriation budgets this week as the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee (JFAC) approved some revised versions of the higher education and K-12 budgets to be voted on by the House and Senate. The new budget bills include a $ 1 million increase to the K-12 budget and a $2.5 million cut to higher education. There is promise that these new versions will garner enough votes to pass the House and be sent to the Senate for final passage.
The Senate also debated and passed House Bill 377 (H377) this week. This bill ensures that the freedom of speech and association is protected in all Idaho schools. The bill was also written that school employees and students respect the dignity of others and be able to express differing opinions. The Senate passed the bill and it has been signed by the Governor.
House Bill 380 (H380) is a new tax bill that was passed by the House last week. This bill has had a lot of input by members of both the House and Senate. This 2021 tax relief bill will reduce all income tax brackets to 5 and will set the top individual and corporate tax bracket at 6.5%. The bill is retroactive and will provide $162 million in ongoing tax relief. The bill will also provide a one-time $220 million tax rebate to Idaho citizens. H 380 is currently on the Senate Floor waiting to be heard as is House bill 362 (H362). H362, the transportation bill, uses 4.5% of the sales tax revenue to provide the Idaho Transportation Department ITD $80 million to go towards roads and infrastructure. Now that we have an idea of what the education budgets are, we feel we can address these two bills.
House Bill 316 (H 316) was also passed by the Senate this week. This legislation was written to limit the eligibility for the county indigent program and the State Catastrophic Health Care fund. It also eliminates state aid for public health districts. The Senate was able to amend the bill to extend the implementation date from January 1, 2022 to March 1, 2022. I have concerns about this bill as it has the potential to hurt some of our local Critical Care Hospitals. By moving the implementation date, we can get the interested parties together during the rest of this year to address some of the concerns and issues that may arise out of the passage of this legislation. This will give us some time during the next legislative session to address these issues and fix any unintended consequences that we may find.
It appears that this Legislative Session may be finally coming to an end. It is an honor to serve as your State Senator. This is a responsibility I take very seriously and I hope I serve you well.