The laws enacted this session will continue to positively impact the lives of all Idahoans for many years to come. As this session of the Idaho State Legislature comes to a close, I want to thank you for allowing me to serve you in the Idaho State Senate. It is truly an honor and a privilege to represent you. Our state revenues are projected to be up in FY18 by ~5.4%. Our focus has been to continue to ensure state services are funded appropriately, while not overspending on those services, still meeting the needs of Idahoans who need a hand up. Because of that forecasted growth in FY18, we were able to address tax relief while, at the same time, moving General Fund revenues to needed into transportation infrastructure, as well as increase our spending on improving our Education systems. With the growing economy and low unemployment our State is enjoying, our good, trained employees have more opportunities in the private sector in which the State must compete to retain them. We were able to provide a 3% merit based employee salary increase to each department to ensure they will be able to continue to keep those employees on the job and providing services from plowing roads to educating our children. Due to that projected growth, I was proud to have co-sponsored the effort to remove our sales taxes on groceries and return some of that growth to taxpayers. There were other tax reduction options discussed, but this sales tax impacts not only every Idahoan, but our boarder economies as well. Removing this tax, along with the credit, streamlines the tax code, reduces personal expenses on food, and keeps Idahoans in our boarder communities shopping in Idaho! This bill was widely supported in both the Senate and the House and sits on the Governor’s desk as I write this letter to you. I’m hoping he will recognize the overwhelming support of removal of this tax and allow it to become law. Without raising any taxes, we were able to put more money on our roads this session as well. When I was appointed to the Legislature in 2007, I was skeptical of the GARVEE bonding program that Idaho had adopted in 2006. After understanding it’s benefits of use, it has proven to me that it has enabled the State to build much needed roadways that are safer, and move people and goods much faster at a cost we can afford. The caps on GARVEE have worked well over the last 10 years, and data shows it’s not only saved lives but has reduced congestion and the air pollution that comes along with sitting in traffic. Getting people to work and back home quickly equates to a better quality of life and attracts more business, aiding in our economic growth. The importance of getting goods to market efficiently, also adds to the attractiveness of Idaho’s business climate. Without good businesses and better jobs, we won’t be able to afford our continuing investments in education and public safety that we all desire. We set up a process this session to move excess year end General Funds and also take 1% of the State Sales tax (~41% of our revenue) dedicating that to both State and local road systems, while authorizing $300m for future expansion projects under the GARVEE bonding program where the service debt is paid through federal funds. We also set up an emergency fund of $52M to be used as matching funds for Federal FEMA funds available to repair all of our damaged roadways caused by this winters snowfall and flooding. We have had tremendous population growth in our state, and that growth is being reflected in the increased student load in many of our school districts. We successfully funded an additional $68M for our Teachers Career Ladder program, the 3rd year of our plan for improving our education system. The increase in funding the baseline K-12 budget reflects an equivalent of 99 new classrooms of students into that system! For the first time in the history of Idaho, we’ve dedicated over $2 billion to Idaho’s public education system, 62.9% of our General Fund budget. We revised the duties of the Oil and Gas Commission, as well as the duties of the Department of Lands, as they relate to oil and gas, and provided for more property/mineral right owner protections for exploration and drilling. The changes created better transparency of the industry and revises the rights and options for royalty owners. We clarified water right ownership for livestock by the federal government as well as provided some clarification for exhibition dog races at local events and sled dog racing. We revised some of the civil forfeiture laws that related to vehicles and currency, ensuring all state agencies would operate now under the same rules when forfeitures are applied. We also clarified, for the courts, assignment of attorney fees ensuring that no Idahoan is limited on their rightful day in court against someone or company that has deeper pockets than they.
Last year, you might recall, I was happy to have been able to lay the groundwork for a Veteran’s Cemetery in Eastern Idaho. This year we authorized the seed money needed to get federal VA dollars available for the new Veteran’s Cemetery in Eastern Idaho. I hope that this will allow more Idaho veterans the ability to use a cemetery close to their home and families. It is the least we can do to honor and respect the time and sacrifices them and their families spent serving our country. Soon there will be a more comprehensive outline of this session’s work on the legislative website (legislature.idaho.gov legislature.idaho.gov) where you will be able to view our projected income and expenditures across the spectrum of State statutory services (I will also post much of this information on my social media pages). This summary will include the highlights of laws passed and their intended proposes. While we may not have agreed on every vote, please know I took into consideration and appreciate the thousands of pieces of correspondence, phone calls and visits that came my way while studying each issue as best I could before I cast each vote. If there are any concerns or questions you have about this session, or if there is anything you think I may be able to help you with, please let me know. Continue to stay informed and communicate with me so that I can better serve you along with all residents of District 14.

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