BOISE, Idaho — Idaho lawmakers finished the majority of their work for the year on Thursday using a new procedure, sending the few remaining bills to the governor and preparing to settle in and wait for the next five days for any potential vetoes.
Unlike previous years though, lawmakers are using a different process to adjourn the 2018 legislative session. An Idaho Supreme Court ruling from last summer deemed the Statehouse’s traditional adjournment practices illegal.
While lawmakers used to be able to go home once done passing legislation, now they are sticking around for another five days to see if Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter vetoes any bill sent to his desk. State lawmakers previously had little opportunity to overturn a governor’s veto in years past because they had already left the Capitol.
House and Senate members quickly rolled through the few remaining bills on Thursday, with the House pausing briefly to debate a last-ditch effort made by Democratic members over providing family planning services to low-income women.
The move came just a day after the same chamber halted a separate health care proposal designed to address the state’s uninsured population.
“It is time to take up health care in Idaho,” said House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding of Boise, the bill’s sponsor. “And if we can’t do it today, then I would hope we would actually have the tenacity to actually do it next year.”
According to Erpelding’s measure, Idaho would have pursued a federal permission — known as a waiver — to expand family planning services to women ages 19-44 who currently do not qualify for Medicare, Medicaid or other health care assistance programs.
Ultimately, Erpedling’s attempt was rejected overwhelmingly by Republican lawmakers.
While lawmakers didn’t pass legislation addressing the thousands of Idahoans without health coverage, they did pass a $225 million tax cut plan described as one of the largest tax cuts in Idaho’s history.
The plan is two pronged.
The first part aligns Idaho’s income tax code to recent federal changes in the tax overhaul signed by President Donald Trump. State officials have estimated that the federal tax changes will result in Idaho taxpayers paying roughly $100 million more next year. While Idaho has the option to not conform, lawmakers typically conform to the federal tax code to prevent citizens from extra bookkeeping.
That’s when the second part of the proposal becomes crucial. To offset the $100 million conformity price tag, HB 463 calls for reducing all seven of Idaho’s brackets for personal income tax rates and corporate tax rates by 0.475 percent. It also creates an Idaho child tax credit.
Changing the state’s tax brackets would lower Idaho’s general fund by $159.6 million while implementing the child tax credit would slash the fund by an additional $42.3 million — slashing nearly $200 million.
State budget writers also agreed earlier this year to boost public school funding by 5.9 percent. In total, the schools budget is roughly $1.8 billion with the combination of state and federal funds.
As of Thursday, the 2018 session has lasted just 74 days. Idaho’s Legislature tends to run short in election years so lawmakers can leave to campaign. All 105 state lawmakers are up for re-election this year.