Published: May 4,2012
Idaho hits tax collection projection, planning large rainy-day transfer
The state of Idaho narrowly topped its tax collection target, besting the $402 million in projected tax revenues by 0.1 percent. With that large hurdle cleared, the state is expecting to shift almost $60 million in surpluses to the Budget Stabilization Fund, one of the state’s reserve accounts.
April, when many individuals and companies file their income taxes, is by far the largest month for tax collections.
“April is by far our make-or-break month, and we made it,” said Wayne Hammon, the administrator of the Division of Financial Management, which released the tax collection data May 7.
Personal and corporate income taxes were both below projections for April, due in part to the state paying larger tax returns than expected for income earned in 2011. However, several more timely measures of economic activity showed positive signs. The state income tax was higher than expected, as were personal income tax withholdings and corporate income estimated tax payments.
“They’re as close to real-time data as we have and they’re all looking up,” Hammon said.
Tax collections have exceeded projections the past five months, after the state revised collections downward slightly. The $402 million collected in April means the state currently has a surplus of $37 million. If revenues top the $2.5 billion in state spending, most of the extra surplus would go to the state’s reserve fund.
Bank of America plans to close one of its two branch offices in downtown Boise
The Bank of America branch at 12th and Main streets will close in July, said Britney Sheehan, Seattle-based spokeswoman for B of A. Employees will be offered other positions within the company, she said.
The bank will likely close other branches as it increases its mobile banking services.
“Ultimately the overall number of banking centers we have nationwide will continue to decline over the next few years,” Sheehan said.
B of A last fall made significant text, telephone, and online banking system upgrades for its customers.
ITD files second eminent domain lawsuit
The Idaho Transportation Department has filed another eminent domain lawsuit in Ada County District Court, making a total of at least three suits to acquire land for a $20 million highway project.
In the new suit, the state agency is taking a little less than a third of an acre from various parts of a property owned by Cache and Kristen Miller north of Meridian.
The project will connect State Hwy. 16 with U.S. Hwy. 20/26 State Street, and create of a river crossing.
Eminent domain suits do not allow property owners to challenge whether or not to sell their land. The suits simply allow a judge to determine what fair market value is for any land a government has chosen to obtain. A project must be related to the public good, such as road construction, in order to be eligible for the eminent domain process.
Some landowners have complained that the large numbers of distressed properties on the market have negatively affected the value of the land being purchased by the government, increasing the sting of not having an option on whether to sell.
Cherry crop is shaping up well for summer harvest
Idaho’s cherry farmers say this year is shaping up to be the first normal year in a while for fruit producers.
Harvests came very late last year and the year before because of cool, wet spring weather that interrupted pollination. Symms Fruit Ranch in Caldwell normally starts harvesting and packing cherries around the 20th of June. Last year, they didn’t start around July 6.
This year, co-owner Dan Symms said he’s expecting a normal year and a good harvest. He’s seen good weather for pollination and expects the water supply to be adequate.
“It’s going to be a fairly large cherry crop throughout the Northwest, in terms of volume,” Symms said. “So far so good.”
Symms said his farm produces 1,500 to 1,800 tons of cherries each year – about 70 percent of the cherries produced in Idaho.
His neighbor Mike Williamson, who has an orchard nearby in the Sunnyslope area of Caldwell, said he’s on track for a good year as well, barring a hailstorm or some other disaster.
But “we don’t really know for sure until a couple weeks before we pick them,” Williamson said.
Tamarack slowly increases its skier base
Although the Tamarack Resort ski area lost about $300,000 in this winter’s season, it is gathering a base of visitors.
The resort, which is being operated by its homeowners after financial problems closed it in 2008, has increased its season pass sales by almost 40 percent for the coming season. Tim Flaherty, the executive director of the homeowners’ association, said the resort pre-sold more than 2,200 individual season passes for the 2012-2013 season.
The homeowners’ association is also going to manage the resort’s Osprey Meadows Golf Course for the first time this year.
The association is assessing $250 per quarter, or $1,000 per year, from every property beginning this summer to help pay for its budget shortfall.
Flaherty told homeowners in a letter that the assessment is a short-term measure. It “will allow TMA to continue offering skiing and other recreational activities until there is a change in the ownership of the resort and TMA can cease or reduce its involvement in recreation operations,” he said.
Auto sale scammer sentenced in Kansas
A Colorado man suspected in several states of scamming people selling motor vehicles online has been sentenced in Kansas to five years and three months in prison.
The Kansas City Star reports 33-year-old Othello K. Bland, of Aurora, Colo., was sentenced May 3 in Johnson County District Court. Besides the prison time, he was ordered to pay more than $42,000 in restitution.
Bland was convicted earlier this year of 16 counts of theft and identity theft.
Prosecutors said Bland, or someone working with him, contacted people who advertised cars for sale on Craigslist or Autotrader. The victims were paid with counterfeit insurance checks, and the criminals then sold the vehicles online for cash.
Johnson County authorities say Bland is suspected of similar crimes in Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska and Oregon.
The Associated Press
Idaho among laxest states on payday loans
The payday lending industry has its share of critics who claim the short-term, high-interest loans prey on vulnerable customers.
But defenders of the industry — which extended more than $185 million in loans to Idahoans in 2010 — say getting cash quickly is essential to those in a financial pinch.
Industry experts say Idaho is one of the least restrictive states in the nation. This year, the Idaho lawmakers killed a bill to cap interest rates at 36 percent.
The failure of that bill comes as many other states — including Washington, Oregon and Montana — have imposed consumer protections on the growing industry.
In Idaho, payday stores have grown from 165 in 2003 to 215 in 2010. Last year, nearly 500,000 loans were issued at an average of $371.
The Associated Press
Tamarack loses $299K, will assess property owners
Tamarack Resort lost $299,000 during the 2011-2012 ski season, but plans to run the golf course and other amenities this summer before another ski season next winter.
Tamarack Municipal Association director Tim Flaherty said property owners will pay $1,000 interim assessments to raise $330,000.
He says that’s meant to ensure the association’s finances are robust enough to carry it through to completion of state court foreclosure proceedings.
Then, Flaherty hopes a buyer arrives to complete unfinished facilities such as the sprawling, insulation-clad Village Plaza that’s been vacant since Tamarack ran out of money in 2008.
Flaherty says Tamarack lost money following a small profit in 2011 because deferred lift maintenance added to expenses, insurance rates rose, the resort paid more to lease state land and poor weather discouraged skiers.
The Associated Press
Wal-Mart agrees to pay $4.8M in back wages, damages
A Department of Labor investigation of Wal-Mart Stores has ended with the company agreeing to pay $4,828,442 in back wages and damages to more than 4,500 employees nationwide.
The agreement also requires the retail chain to pay $463,815 in civil money penalties for violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime provisions.
The violations involved misclassified vision center managers at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores who were not compensated for overtime, according to the Labor Department. Under the terms of the settlement, Wal-Mart has agreed to pay all back wages the department says it owes for the violations, plus an equal amount in liquidated damages to the employees.
“Misclassification of employees as exempt from FLSA coverage is a costly problem with adverse consequences for employees and corporations,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement announcing the settlement. “Let this be a signal to other companies that when violations are found, the Labor Department will take appropriate action to ensure that workers receive the wages they have earned.”
Wal-Mart corrected its classification practices in 2007, and negotiation over the back pay issues has been ongoing since that time.
Dolan Media Newswires
Zoning approval for LDS church
The Meridian Planning & Zoning Commission on May 3 recommended approval of an annexation and rezoning request by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its property at 3775 E. Ustick Road. The church aims to retire its septic system there and connect to city services, Associate City Planner Bill Parsons said.
The site is 7.67 acres as measured to centerlines of adjacent roads. A Stake Center meeting facility and parking lot occupy 4.64 acres. Parsons said the church would have to file a separate application to develop the remaining ground.
The church requests rezoning from Ada County’s rural-urban transitional designation to Meridian’s medium-density residential category, a nod to surrounding uses, Parsons said.
Idaho frozen food company settles with EPA
An Idaho frozen food company has agreed to pay the Environmental Protection Agency $84,000 for failing to report its possession of hazardous chemicals to safety officials.
The EPA said the Caldwell facility of Rhodes International, Inc. stored large quantities of the toxic gas anhydrous ammonia from 2006 to 2009.
Agency officials say the company, which makes frozen cinnamon rolls and other breads, failed to properly notify state and local emergency departments it was storing the chemicals – a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Anhydrous ammonia is a pungent gas that attacks skin, eyes, throat and lungs, causing serious injury or death.
EPA unit manager Wally Moon says relaying that information to emergency planners is critical to protecting the community during a chemical spill.
The Associated Press
2 men arrested trying to steal copper wire from ID business that already lost $100K in wire
Police in Caldwell have arrested two men they say were trying to steal copper wire for a business that had already lost an estimated $100,000 in copper wire to thieves.
Police say they caught 46-year-old James Swain and 31-year-old Thomas R. Moore at the business at 2:30 a.m. May 8.
Investigators believe Swain and Moore are involved in other thefts and burglaries and that more people are involved. Police continue to investigate.
Swain faces charges of grand theft, burglary, conspiracy, and possession of a controlled substance while Moore faces charges of grand theft, destruction of evidence, conspiracy and resisting arrest.
The Associated Press
Nguyen named first Asian Pacific American woman judge on a federal appellate court
Jacqueline H. Nguyen of Los Angeles was confirmed as a judge on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 7. The appointment makes her the first Asian Pacific American woman judge on a federal appellate court.
Nguyen came to the United States in 1975 after fleeing Vietnam and studied during breaks while helping her parents at their donut shop in Hollywood, according to the Los Angeles Times.
She went to UCLA School of Law, was appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2002 and was chosen by President Barack Obama as a federal judge for the Central District of California in 2009.
The Ninth Circuit Court, where Nguyen was appointed, has jurisdiction over the federal district courts in Hawaii, Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Dolan Media Newswires
Idaho to get nearly $2M in drug settlement
Idaho will be getting nearly $2 million as part of two multi-state settlements with a pharmaceutical company accused of illegally marketing anti-psychotic drugs.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced a $1.2 million settlement May 7 with Abbott Laboratories. Then on Tuesday, the state settled a second claim with the company for $760,000.
The company has been sued by 44 states and the District of Columbia over its marketing of Depakote, which is used to treat seizure disorders, migraines and mania associated with bi-polar disorder.
States complained the company engaged in unfair and deceptive strategies to market Depakote for off-label uses without evidence proving it can be prescribed for those uses.
The second settlement focused on Abbott marketing the drug for uses federal officials had not deemed safe, leading to false Medicaid claims.
The Associated Press