Idaho Legislature Returns to Business

Date: January 14, 2018

Governor Otter opens 2018 session with State of the State Address

State Director Suzanne Budge reports on the small-business agenda from the State Capitol for the legislative week ending January 12

The 2018 Idaho Legislature kicked off with Gov. Butch Otter’s final State of the State and Budget Address, closing out the last year of his third term as the state’s chief executive and more than three decades as an elected official.

C.L. “Butch” Otter’s tenure in office has included state senator, lieutenant governor, congressman and governor. Key points in his address to the Legislature, January 8, the first day of the 2018 legislative session include:

  • Providing merit-based, 3 percent pay increases for State employees
  • Rolling back an unemployment insurance rate increase on Idaho businesses
  • Reducing state individual and corporate income tax rates
  • Proposing a plan for Idaho to substantially conform with the new federal tax code without putting state revenues or Idaho taxpayers at risk.
  • $200 million a year in tax cuts all told.
  • Providing $17.4 million from the General Fund and $11.4 million from the Millennium Fund to implement the Idaho Health Care Plan, which aims to stabilize the state’s health-care insurance market and give more working Idahoans the ability to purchase affordable coverage.
  • Providing for 11 new residencies for Idaho physicians in training.
  • Providing $2.6 million to stand up three more behavioral health crisis centers in the Lewiston, Nampa-Caldwell, and Pocatello areas.
  • Increasing public schools funding by $123 million (6.03 percent) including: Providing nearly $42 million for the fourth year of a five-year plan to implement the “career ladder” system, $6.5 million to expand literacy intervention for kindergarten through third-grade, $5 million for college and career advising, $10 million for classroom technology, $1.4 million for mastery based education programs, 

Overall, the governor is proposing a 6.62 percent increase from last year’s budget, bringing the state budget to $3.66 billion in fiscal year 2019, which begins in July 2018.

Health Care

Governor Otter issued an executive order Jan. 5, 2018, directing the Idaho Department of Insurance to use the flexibility provided by the Trump administration to develop guidelines under which Idaho health insurance carriers can offer coverage plans at significantly lower costs. Dean Cameron, director of the Department of Insurance said he hopes insurance plans from Idaho carriers can be available as early as March to reduce costs for essential health-care coverage by 30 to 50 percent. Such plans would not qualify for an Obamacare subsidy on premium payments, but carriers involved must agree to continue offering plans through the Your health Idaho insurance exchange, where federal subsidies will continue to be available.

Idaho’s small businesses are strongly supportive of more choice and flexibility in the insurance market. Results of the most recent NFIB survey, released on Dec. 20, 2017, show 88 percent of Idaho businesses supporting the availability of lower-priced, less comprehensive options in the individual health insurance market. NFIB endorses the objectives of the January executive order signed by Governor Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little.

Economy Outlook

Idaho State Director Suzanne Budget kicked off the January 5 session of the Joint Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee with an upbeat message from Idaho’s and America’s small businesses. NFIB’s national Small Business Economic Trends study reported the second highest optimism level in its 44-year history, the highest measure since the Reagan Administration in the 1980s.

The two-day session of the joint EORAC included presentations from specific industry groups, such as Idaho retailers, realtors, bankers, hospital and medical groups, universities and state agencies. The EORAC committee’s mission is to make an overall assessment of Idaho’s economy for the next 18 months, to review revenue projections, and to provide advice to the Legislature on total estimated revenues available for appropriation and budget setting. 2018 was the first time NFIB has been represented at the EORAC hearings, and we were very pleased to be able to ensure that the voice of small business was represented in the legislative process.

Previous Reports, News Releases, Editorials, Testimony

January 5 Testimony—NFIB Idaho Testifies on the Small-Business Economy

December 20, 2017 News Release—Poll of Small-Business Owners a Guide for 2018 Legislature

Gov. Butch Otter

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