Unexpected hot-button issues surface
In her latest update from Boise, NFIB/Idaho State Director Suzanne Budge reports on the issues important for small business amid all the media noise other matters have created.
Back in January, predictions were for the 2014 session of the Idaho Legislature to be dominated by just a few big issues: education reform, ObamaCare and tax relief at the margins.
It may not turn out quite that way. As the legislative session passes the mid-point, new hot-button issues have occupied media and legislative attention. These were not the mainstream discussions we expected, but they filled the hallways with activists and protestors and brought heightened security to the Statehouse. Gun rights, “ag gag” and GLBT crowds showed up in force to pressure lawmakers on their various causes. This put the national spotlight on Idaho in 2014, but probably not in a way we expected.
Although legislation is likely to be passed dealing with education, health care and tax cuts, those topics certainly haven’t received the attention or the ink anticipated early on. Instead it will likely be the lightning rod social issues the 2014 session will be remembered for.
Through it all, NFIB is keeping its lobbying efforts concentrated on the following bills important for small business.
Minimum Wage Increase
Proponents of increasing the minimum wage have proposed S1334, which NFIB is opposing, in addition to their ballot initiative. They are gathering signatures to put the issue before voters in November. Idaho matches the federal minimum wage, but the push to provide a so-called “living wage” is showing up in a number of states as part of a national campaign. S1334 increases Idaho’s current rate of $7.25 to $8.50 in 2014, to $9.75 in 2015 and then links it to the Consumer Price Index in 2016. The bill also raises the wage rate for tipped and seasonal employees.
Local Option Tax
Another bill NFIB is working to defeat would allow cities and counties to impose their own sales tax, called a local option tax. This would allow local governments another tool to raise revenue to fund projects, but small and independent businesses have long opposed local option sales tax. Cities and counties have long endorsed the concept, but despite several attempts, adding more taxing authority at the local level has not succeeded in the Legislature. Details of the bill are forthcoming.
Tension between the House and the Senate is a natural condition at the Statehouse, but when it comes to tax policy, an obvious trend emerges: The House likes to cut taxes, the Senate, not so much. The Senate Local Government committee, where all tax bills arrive if they pass the House, is the graveyard for most tax-cutting measures. This year appears no different. Here are a few bills of interest:
- H547 – Distribution, Cigarette Tax Monies – (Bedke/Moyle) – Revises the current distribution of the cigarette tax for various programs (public schools, juvenile corrections, permanent building, cancer) and reallocates a portion of the tax that paid for the Capitol Renovation toward debt service on GARVEE bonds and aquifer management.
- H548 – Income Tax - (Bedke/Moyle) -- Decreases Idaho’s income tax rates by 1/10th of a percentage point in every taxable year that has seen a three percent growth in state general fund the preceding fiscal year, stopping when the top income tax rate and corporate tax rate reach 6.8 percent. (NFIB supports)
- H546 – “Reimbursement Incentive Act” Tax Incentive for New Jobs – (Sayer-Dept. of Commerce) --Provides for the state to negotiate a tax credit of up to 30 percent of a company’s corporate income tax, sales tax and payroll tax if the company reaches negotiated job creation goals. Both existing and new companies would be eligible.
Health Insurance, ObamaCare & Medicaid
- HJM6 – Urging HHS to suspend imposition of PPACA taxes on the health care industry. (NFIB supports)
- H481/H532 – Health Insurance Exchange – repeals existing law relating to the Idaho Health Insurance Exchange (Barrett)
- H497 – Hospitals – Cost transparency (Hixon) (NFIB supports)
- H533 – County Assistance – Amends and repeals existing law related to county assistance (Loertscher)
- H535 – Indigent Sick – Amends existing law to provide that medical indigency means those at or below 100% of the federal poverty level. (Trujillo)
- H544 – Medical Savings Accounts Income taxes – amends existing law to revise provisions regarding taxation and contributions to medical savings accounts for state income tax purposes. (Hixon) (NFIB supports)
- S1243 – Health Insurance – Adds to existing law to provide that medical retainer agreements shall not be regulated as health insurance. (Thayne/Luker) (NFIB supports)
- S1347 – Indigent Sick – Amends, repeals and adds to existing law to remove references to the Catastrophic Health Care Cost Program and to establish a program and funding to aid community health centers (Thayne/Nonini).
Transportation, Fees and Fuels Tax
- H481 Motor Fuel Tax Rate Increase – Raises the fuel tax by 6 cents per gallon, at two cents per gallon per year for three years beginning on July 1, 2014. Each $0.01 of fuel tax generates about $8.8 million in the Highway Distribution Account for annual revenue of $17.6 million. Total over three years is estimated at $52.8 million in additional revenue after July 1, 2017. (Idaho Trucking Assn) (NFIB likely opposed)
- H494 Transportation Funding – Diverts a portion of the sales tax to the highway distribution account once specific triggers of general fund revenue ($2.91 billion) and public school appropriations ($1.4 billion) are reached. The shift then generates $1.6 million to the highway distribution account for every $10 million in sales tax revenue growth. (Palmer)
- H505 Transportation Funding – Diverts a portion of the Sales Tax (2% after certain deductions) to State and Local highway entities. This amount approximates the amount of Sales Tax paid on tires and vehicle accessories. The shift decreases the General Fund by $22 million and increases transportation funding by the same amount. Effective date July 1, 2015. (Kauffman)
Other Bills of Interest
- H473 Eliminating the EPA -- Declares that EPA is not authorized by the US Constitution and directs state to prevent enforcement of certain EPA regulations. (Rep. Paul Shepherd). (NFIB likely opposes)
- H468 Private Property Rights – Protects private property rights and clarifies that the Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board is authorized to license outfitters and guides upon public lands within the state of Idaho. (Boyle/Pearce – Farm Bureau) (NFIB likely supports)
Previous 2014 Legislative Reports