Friday, May 27, 2022

Democratic, GOP caucus group outline session goals

by ABIGAIL GRANT Contributing Writer
| January 15, 2022 1:00 AM

BOISE — Governor Brad Little kicked off the 2022 legislative session at the State of the State address by wanting to put more money back in the pockets of Idahoans, make strategic investments in education, broadband, maintenance, taxes and transportation.

Following Little's Jan. 10 address, both Democratic and Republican legislators spoke out regarding Little’s statements, with both caucus groups outlining their plans moving forward.

Senator Michelle Stennett and Ilana Rubel represented the Democratic Minority Caucus meeting by addressing their main priority this session, which is to build and repair Idaho’s infrastructure.

“Our caucuses remain committed to championing the best interest of all Idahoans and working to pass smart, thoughtful legislation that invests in all our people and our state’s future,” said Stennett. “One of the primary areas of focus this session must be infrastructure, especially as our state continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.”

In addition, Stennett said noted that Idaho has $1.6 billion in state funds on hand, $1.9 billion with rainy day funds, and $1 billion from the Federal American Rescue Plan Act. Those funds "can provide timely investment opportunities for transportation, education, broadband, water, electrical grids, housing and health care,” she said.

“To be clear,” said Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, “the Democratic Caucus is strongly in favor of tax relief, but not the trickle-down variety that the GOP supermajority delivers every year and are evidently planning again.”

“Decades of data have shown unequivocally that trickle down economics does not work - never has, never will,” Rubel said. “Yet inexplicably, it remains the go-to strategy for Idaho’s GOP supermajority.”

When it comes to tax relief, the minority leaders said Idaho should be laser-focused on reducing property taxes for the state's residents and not by cutting income taxes for those at the top. And by doing it in a way that protects and improves vital government services like education, infrastructure, and law enforcement.

Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, Majority Leader Mike Moyle and Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monk focused their attention on tax cuts this session.

“We’re at a unique point in history,” Bedke said. “We are now reaping the rewards of creating a positive business climate, of taking care of the essential things that governments need to take care of which has been showing up through our tax policy, in the form of surpluses.”

The majority leaders agree that Idaho is at a point where it can make targeted investments back in infrastructure which includes hard infrastructure (roads, highways, bridges), soft infrastructure (schools, health care systems, law enforcement), and tax cuts.

“The governor’s proposals have included a lot of things on our to-do lists for decades,” Rep. Caroline Nilisson Troy told the Idaho Press. “From fixing deteriorating bridges to addressing deferred maintenance on state and university buildings.”

Both Democratic and Republican caucus groups want to see improvement in education which is something that will be detailed throughout the session.

Abigail Grant is an intern with the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research and the UI JAMM News Service.