February 10, 2012


The latest budget projections for this fiscal year (ending June 30) continue to look positive. The latest projected figure for the state’s surplus is $113.6 million. This figure continues to improve as January’s state tax revenue came in $6.3 million ahead of forecasts and is up $13.2 million or 5.2 percent from last January’s figure. Cumulative collections through January were $83.5 million or 5.8% more than last year. These positive figures are promising for the Governor and the Legislature’s efforts to set aside tax relief in the budget while also ensuring the funds exist for other important budget priorities.


Together, Senator Tim Corder, Chairman of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, and Representative Dennis Lake, Chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, hosted 27 committee members- nine Senators and 18 House members- Wednesday morning for the first ever joint hearing of the Senate and House Taxation Committees. The Committees held this hearing to ask industry and business leaders about policies that could improve Idaho’s economic conditions. The joint Committees heard testimony on subjects that included agriculture, banking, energy, job creation, and small business interests. The hearing is a positive development for the successful collaboration between the House and Senate to pass legislation that will spur economic growth and create jobs in Idaho.

On Wednesday, the Senate took up HB 404, the bill which bans camping from state lands, including the Capitol Annex, where the Occupy Boise people have been since the fall. The bill went into the amending process in the Senate- the 14th Order of Business. Three amendments to the House bill were introduced, including one from the Pro Temp, Senator Brent Hill and Senator Bart Davis, the Senate Majority Leader. Their amendment would soften the language on property seizure, requiring the state to store belongings left on-site for 90 days to give people a chance to claim them before they’re destroyed, although a "reasonable" storage fee could be charged. This amendment passed, and is the only amendment to HB 404 from the Senate at this time. The Senate will continue to consider the amended bill next week.


This morning the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to print a bill which would allow bridges to be built and repaired using GARVEE funds. Brian Ness, Direct of the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) that currently, 574 bridges are over 50 years old, and in ten years, Idaho will have 1,000 bridges over 100 years old. He explained that current ITD funding allows for bridges to be replaced every 120 years.
I am pleased to be a co-sponsor of this push to maintain and rebuild Idaho’s bridges. Specifically, this bill would allow ITD to fund bridge maintenance using GARVEE funds, especially as other projects come in under budget. I am grateful to work with ITD in coming up with a solution for the maintenance of the state’s bridges to keep Idahoans safe.
Thank you again for your letters and phone calls. I hope that you will continue to make me aware of how Idaho’s laws and pending legislation affect you. As always, your input helps me to be informed of how you feel about legislation and do my job as a legislator better. Please continue to contact me at http://www.CWinder@Senate.Idaho.Gov&lt;www.CWinder@Senate.Idaho.Gov>, www.ChuckWinder.com<www.ChuckWinder.com>, 208-332-1307, and find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Senator Chuck Winder
Assistant Majority Leader