The Governor's State of the State Address marks the beginning of a new session. It was an optimistic speech based on slow but continuing economic gains throughout Idaho. The Governor has asked for the restoration of approximately $60 million in stabilization accounts, $41 million in additional one-time employee compensation, and $45 million in undefined "ongoing" tax relief. I believe the intent of the undefined "ongoing" relief is to allow the legislature the discretion of designing what the relief will look like and to whom it will go. Ongoing relief may likely come in the form of rate reduction for Income or Corporate taxes but could also be in Personal Property.
A couple of proposals are floating around that would eliminate some tax exemptions and reduce rates of either income or sales tax. Making the tax base as broad as possible and reducing rates is sound tax policy because it results in everyone paying a little rather than a few paying a lot and others paying very little. One of the proposals would have a net increase in tax revenue: meaning that the taxpayer base is broadened to include more payers but the rate remains high enough to increase total revenue. The other plan that I am aware of, is revenue neutral: meaning that the number of payers is increased but the rate is reduced to a level that would maintain total revenue at the current level. Both plans contemplate broadening the base with the removal of some exemptions and taxing some services heretofore untaxed. Untaxed services include such things as attorneys, barbers, hair salons, other professional services, and the like.
I will be assisting the Headstart Association in training parents to advocate for children to the legislators. I will spend about two hours letting parents "practice" on me to build confidence and I will critique their approaches, methods, and styles to help make them more effective advocates. Idaho has a great reputation for accessibility with respect to legislators and the legislative process. The Headstart programs have saved families and children by teaching self-reliance and independence. The program requires goal setting and accomplishment that emphasizes graduating from the program. Headstart is a grand example of government offering a hands-up program with incalculable results as opposed to a hand-out. Headstart gets and keeps people off welfare and out of other social programs by teaching independence not dependency.
I will be meeting with the promoters of animal cruelty legislation seeking to provide a felony provision for anyone convicted of cruelty to animals for the third time within five years. You might remember previous comments I made but allow me to reiterate: no data exists to validate a conclusion that making something a felony changes behaviors. There have been no animal abuse cases in Idaho where there was a third conviction; three in five years will be impossible given the amount of time it takes to adjudicate. Once again I fear we have a solution designed to gloss over a problem instead of solving the problem.
We are reviewing Administrative rules these first couple of weeks of the session. I don't believe we have any this year that are particularly controversial and my committees have fewer of them. I would like to say again how unique Idaho is with regard to administrative rules. Idaho legislators review and approve every rule change that occurs throughout the year. I use the following metaphor to help students understand the significance of reviewing rules: there would be approximately 15 linear feet comprising the laws of Idaho on a bookshelf; whereas, approximately 45 linear feet of bookshelf would be required to hold all the Administrative rules.
Tax committees from the House and Senate will be meeting jointly to take public testimony regarding what ongoing tax relief might look like. This will be the first time the two committees have met jointly to learn about and discuss tax policy together. Even if the Governor's request is not funded, the benefit to the state of having a discernable and vetted plan for sustainable and ongoing tax reforms has great value. I will have more on the outcome of that meeting in the coming weeks.
Thank you again for this honor to serve.
Senator Tim Corder