At Gallatin Public Affairs, we work at the intersection of business, government, and the media. So as we consider what to expect during 2013, our thoughts naturally turn to the political realm.
In Washington, we expect to see Congress finally move beyond posturing and get serious about fixing the budget deficit and national debt. Senator Mike Crapo and Congressman Mike Simpson are two of the most respected voices on fiscal matters in Washington D.C., and we expect their common-sense insistence that all debt reduction options be on the table will resonate more broadly with their colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
We also expect to see Congressman Simpson finally succeed in gaining passage of the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act. By striking a balance among conservation, economic development and recreation interests, CIEDRA enjoys support from political moderates within both political parties.
Finally, we expect Congress will make meaningful progress on immigration reform. Key to this effort will be Representative Raul Labrador, who has a wealth of expertise in immigration law. Recent proposals by Representative Labrador suggest that while he may see some in-state political risk in leading on this issue, he recognizes that the upsides – both for himself and his party – far outweigh any downsides.
Here in Idaho, the Legislature will appear much the same but will function differently with eleven new Senators and thirty new House members. A historic change at the helm of the House with new Speaker Scott Bedke and two new members of leadership will bring a different, more inclusive approach to Republican caucus politics and to the conduct of the body as a whole. While the Senate’s top leaders remain the same, six new senators all previously served in the House and the body’s overall makeup is somewhat more conservative now.
Although Idaho voters handily defeated the education propositions in November, there seems to be a general view that education reform is inevitable and essential to improve the middling performance of Idaho students. In addition to education policy, the education budget is another matter that needs to be sorted out. The current year’s budget was based on the now-repealed education reform laws. Rupert Senator Dean Cameron and Representative Maxine Bell of Jerome, Co- chairs of the powerful Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, will have their work cut out for them in ensuring there is adequate funding to finish out this fiscal year.
Idaho’s business community is anxious to repeal the personal property tax. Some counties – like Caribou County – are heavily dependent on personal property tax. Local governments will demand a replacement source of income. This has the potential to become the most contentious and divisive issue of the session.
With Governor Otter’s decision to support the creation of a state health insurance exchange – a place where Idahoans can comparison shop for insurance that best fits their price point and benefit needs –legislation will be introduced to allow its creation. The business community is by and large very supportive of a state health exchange. However, there are some vocal opponents who would rather see the state take the federal exchange option and allow the federal government to run Idaho’s exchange. We expect that the personal property tax repeal effort and the state health care exchange will be the hot issues of the 2013 session.
John Kotek and Lyn Darrington are partners at Gallatin Public Affairs in Boise.