By Lyndsie Kiebert
Medicaid Expansion, the Idaho grocery tax and recent changes to state tax forms dominated discussion at a town hall gathering Saturday, hosted by Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay) and newly-appointed Sen. Jim Woodward (R-Sagle).
The Sandpoint Community Hall saw a few dozen attendees with many questions for the legislators regarding what will be discussed in the upcoming legislative session, slated to officially begin Monday, Jan. 7. Dixon and Woodward took turns sharing what they saw as the most pressing topics to be addressed in Boise in coming months, and then spent the bulk of the meeting answering questions.
Several people at the meeting voiced their support for the Medicaid Expansion initiative known as Prop 2, for which more than 60 percent of Idahoans voted “yes” in the November election. Dixon and Woodward both stressed the need to make sure such an expansion could fit into Idaho’s budget.
“We’ll have to set aside a new line item, but we should have savings in other areas,” Woodward said, mentioning the state catastrophic fund as an area where Medicaid Expansion might ease costs. “Typically we vote indirectly as citizens … because you voted us in, then we go to Boise and we vote for the district. But in this case we took a direct vote of the people … and we’re going to take that to heart. But we have to take into consideration our constitutional mandate also to balance the budget, so we’ll have to figure out how it all plays together.”
Dixon said the Idaho grocery tax repeal that Otter vetoed in 2017 might make some more noise during the upcoming session, sparking conversation among town hall attendees, who largely supported the repeal. Woodward said he saw the benefit of sticking with the status quo as not to disrupt the state’s budget, but also noted that there may be a need to revisit the amount of the grocery tax credit Idahoans receive at year’s end.
Woodward emphasized the need for Idahoans to review their W-4 state tax forms before filing their 2018 taxes. He said that while state and federal forms used to parallel one another, this is no longer the case depending on a person’s marital status, number of jobs and other factors. If changes aren’t made to state W-4s, Woodward said Idahoans risk owing more than they’re accustomed to at tax time. The State Tax Commission provides tools for making the right adjustments to forms at www.tax.idaho.gov/W4.
Dixon and Woodward said they will hold town halls in Sandpoint throughout the session to keep constituents updated on what’s going on in Boise. Though the next town hall is not yet scheduled, Dixon said the best way to be in the know is to be on his emailing list. Contact him at [email protected] to be added to the list.
Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) did not attend Saturday’s town hall event due to having scheduled her own event prior to Dixon’s invitation. Scott said her next scheduled town hall is for after the legislative session ends. She said the best way to contact her during session is to email her at [email protected].
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