By Cameron Rasmusson
With the 2017 Idaho legislative session due to kick off Jan. 9, Idaho lawmakers will decide how to use an unexpected windfall in tax revenue.
In the wake of a projected surplus in tax receipts, Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said legislators will likely be discussing the possibility of tax cuts. However, Keough isn’t as convinced about the wisdom of that course.
“My thoughts are that while early reports are promising regarding the pickup in Idaho’s economy and resulting increase in taxes paid, we are only halfway through our fiscal year, and sometimes we get surprised in the second half,” Keough said. “The phrase ‘don’t count your chickens till they hatch’ comes to mind.”
According to Keough, the state has other obligations that could use additional funding. Idaho school districts are increasingly reliant on local property owners to cover a portion of education spending through supplemental levies. Likewise, many of Idaho’s roads, bridges and infrastructure are in serious need of maintenance or replacement. While Keough understands the appeal of keeping more money in the pocketbook, she observed there’s no shortage of state departments that could use a boost.
“There are many examples that citizens contact me about that range across state agencies where service delivery is slow because of lack of staff to be more timely,” Keough said.
Indeed, dollars and cents will be occupying much of Keough’s time. As the co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, she and other committee members analyze state revenue and weigh department budget requests to balance the state budget. Aside from budgetary issues, Keough said constituent requests will keep her busy in 2017.
“Those run the gamut from drivers’ license revocation processes to insurance covering telemedicine similar to in-office care and more,” she said.
Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, did not respond to a emailed request for comment by press time. However, in her December newsletter, she said it’s shaping up to be a good session for the conservative, anti-federalist wing of the Idaho Republican Party.
“I am happy to say the House of Representatives has added more liberty-minded legislators across the state for the 2017-2018 sessions,” she wrote in her newsletter. “This should strengthen the voice of freedom and hopefully move more legislation in a constitutional, limited government direction.”
In the same newsletter, she announced the launch of a website, Growing Freedom for Idaho, where she will outline her goals for the legislative session. Under a website section labeled “Freedom Agenda,” she detailed several objectives under categories like “lower taxes” and “less government.” Repealing the grocery tax and passing a resolution officially declaring Idaho a sovereign state are just two of dozens of goals listed on the website.
Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, did not respond to an emailed request for comment by press time.
Residents who wish to keep up with legislative activity or watch sessions through live streaming can easily do so by visiting www.legislature.idaho.gov.
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