March 30, 2012

As the 2012 Legislative Session comes to a close, I would like to convey what an honor it has been to represent you in the Idaho State Senate. This Legislative Session brought many ups and downs as passionate issues arose and events transpired. Although I have responsibilities as the Assistant Majority Leader, my priorities are always with the Idahoans I represent in the Senate. The primary responsibility of the Legislature was to pass a balanced budget while maintaining our priorities in education, public safety, healthcare and protecting our way of life in Idaho.

BUDGET

* A small budget surplus will allow us to fund education at higher levels, put an equal amount in rainy day accounts and provide for some needed tax relief. Additionally, we raised no taxes.
* The Health and Welfare budget will reverse three cuts made last year: removing a "tiered" budget for developmentally disabled adults, restoring preventative dental care for the disabled and restoring programs cut for those with dual diagnoses.
* Most state employees will receive a 2% on-going pay raise. State employees have not seen a pay rise in over four years. TAX ISSUES AND EXEMPTIONS

* With H 653, we lowered individual and corporate income tax rates from 7.8 to 7.6 to 7.5 percent in 2012 and to 7.4% in 2013.
* H 584a extends the homestead tax exemption for up to two years upon the owner’s death. JOB CREATION

* The Idaho Global Entrepreneur Mission (IGEM) pairs research institutions with private corporations to make innovations in certain industries that grow the economy and create high paying jobs for Idaho.
* H 417 makes privately owned aircraft parts tax exempt, keeps Idaho’s market competitive and will create more than 200 jobs.
* The Idaho Business Caucus continues to work to develop bills relating to taxes, regulatory reform, and incentives to retain existing businesses and help them expand, as well as attract new businesses to Idaho. EDUCATION

* The legislature approved a 4.6% increase in general fund revenues for public schools, 8.6% for colleges and universities, 20% for community colleges.
* A budget surplus will fully fund the technology and pay-for-performance ( $39 million) components of education reform; a highly rated Idaho teacher could receive a pay increase of up to 6.5percent.
* H 698 will backfill teacher salaries by $34 million in addition to the $60 million added in July of 2011. TRANSPORTATION

* S 1274a defines texting and bans texting while driving in a moving vehicle.
* H 511a requires lighting and marking for guyed towers above 50 feet and less than 200, which are regulated by the FAA to ensure safety of pilots.
* H 583 requires that governments recognize easement accesses in a property deed. Failure to recognize easement access in a deed qualifies as a taking, which requires just compensation. LIFE ISSUES

* HJR 002a is a constitutional amendment which protects Idahoans’ right to hunt, fish and trap from those outside of Idaho with radial agendas for wildlife and domestic animals. In November, you will be asked to vote to approve HJR 002a.
* S 1348 protects patients from involuntarily being denied food, fluids and life-saving treatment.
* S 1387, a bill to require an ultrasound before an abortion, died in the House after passing the Senate. HONORING VETERANS

* SCR 133 passed after emotional floor debate to honor seven veterans who died in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan within the last year.

I am honored to have worked to achieve these and so many more improvements for Idaho. What a productive year! I had the privilege of sponsoring 19 pieces of legislation including H 417, H 584, H 511a and H 563, all explained above. Thank you to all who wrote in to share your thoughts and concerns for legislation. Knowing your thoughts allows me to understand how those I represent feel so that I may do my job more effectively. I look forward to an eventful summer and many more years of public service. I hope that you, my friends and neighbors will stay in touch as we continue to forge a path for a great future in Idaho.

Sincerely,

Senator Chuck Winder

Assistant Majority Leader







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