Home | Features | Politics | A Seat in the House

A Seat in the House

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
A Seat in the House

Amidst a troubled revenue picture, are there signs of business growth in Idaho?

This last legislative session was difficult in part because of the economic situation we have been experiencing over the past year that resulted in approval of a budget for the upcoming fiscal year (FY 2010) that is over 12 percent less than the original budget for this fiscal year (FY 2009). As a result, General Fund revenue updates are of significant interest as we enter into FY 2010 that began July 1.

Based on the latest General Fund update ending May 31, the numbers could be better. The state’s May General Fund revenues were 11.9 million dollars lower than expected for the month. This means that with only June revenues yet to collect this fiscal year, the shortfall for this year is at a total of 77.1 million dollars.

By revenue categories, individual income tax is at 46.3 million dollars below the fiscal year estimate, corporate income tax below the estimate by 10.9 million dollars, sales tax at 15.5 million dollars less and miscellaneous revenues (interest revenues, etc.) were under estimate by 4.5 million dollars. The one bright spot was in the category of product taxes at 200,000 dollars above the estimate, but this is not a significant revenue source since it is estimated to produce slightly over 27 million dollars for this fiscal year.

However, even with revenues coming in under estimates, because of spending measures taken by the legislature and the Governor during FY 2009, Governor Otter was able to tell the Idaho citizens in a press release on July 1 that “the State of Idaho ended the fiscal year through June 30 with a balanced budget—as required by the Idaho Constitution—and with its financial house in order.”

The Governor also “thanked the Legislature, his fellow constitutional officers, and the people of Idaho for their support of the public servants who are carefully and responsibly managing the tax dollars with which they are entrusted.”

As I have written in a previous article, in order to meet the balanced budget requirements for this year spending cuts had to be implemented by the Governor and the legislature during the middle of this budget year, and many of these cuts affected state employees directly through layoffs and non-paid furloughs from work.

Many of these efforts toward reducing spending will also have to be carried forth in FY 2010. As an example, I learned just before writing this article that Legislative Services staff will be required to take a forty-hour work furlough without pay during this next year to meet that staff’s spending reduction requirement. Additionally, the Department of Health and Welfare just consolidated seven regional areas into three, eliminating four regional director positions and four administrative assistant positions.

There have also been changes in employee benefits. For example, retirees will lose the ability to continue their present state insurance coverage beginning in December of this year. Instead of keeping the full insurance coverage they now have, they will have to rely on Medicare for their primary coverage and subscribe to a supplemental insurance plan to cover medical costs not covered by Medicare. It is anticipated that the costs for coverage under Medicare and the cost of the supplemental will be less than the insurance premium retirees are now paying for state coverage and the overall cost to the state is far less than it is under the current program.

There have also been changes in benefits for part-time employees. The amount of hours required for part-time employees to receive partial or full benefits have been increased, resulting in additional savings for state taxpayers.

It is to the credit of our state employees that they understand the economic circumstances requiring that these actions be taken and that they are still committed to providing the services to Idaho citizens in the best manner possible.

However the news is not all of a negative nature:

Recently the Governor announced the Project 60 initiative. Project 60 is a “comprehensive initiative to grow Idaho’s Gross Domestic Product from $51 billion to $60 billion. Designed in three tiers to strengthen both rural and urban communities, the plan will create quality jobs for all Idahoans by fostering systemic growth, recruiting new companies to Idaho, and selling Idaho’s trade and investment opportunities to the world.”

The Governor just announced that Project 60 efforts are paying off and cited examples of new economic growth in the state. Examples he provided were:

Fifty-seven new jobs were restored to the Idaho Air National Guard. The facility has been given the assignment of retrofitting half of the nation’s A-10 “Warthog” combat aircraft with new high-tech equipment. The new jobs are expected to last through 2010 and may support “using Gowen Field as a central depot in putting the nation’s National Guard’s key equipment back to work.”

In the north it was recently announced that Burly Products is breaking ground this summer on a 20,000 square foot plant in the Riverbend Commerce Park in Post Falls that will bring at least 16 new jobs to Post Falls. The company is moving to Post Falls from Spokane and is increasing its facility size to almost triple the size of the facility that is in Spokane.

It is said that “every cloud has a silver lining” and these signs of business growth are signals the economic cloud over Idaho does have a silver lining and that we can be optimistic that a better Idaho economy is ahead

Thanks for reading and as always please let me know of issues that are of concern to you. My home phone is (208) 265-0123 and my mailing address is P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho 83825. George

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (0 posted)

total: | displaying:

Post your comment

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Quote

Please enter the code you see in the image:

  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Author info

Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

Tagged as:

No tags for this article

Rate this article