Welcome to my District 15 Newsletter!

I am honored to have the opportunity to be your Representative in the Idaho Legislature. One of my responsibilities is to help bring government to constituents and let you know what's happening at the State House.  This first newsletter highlights some of the activities during the month of January.  Future newsletters will be more frequent as activity picks up and some of the more important and controversial bills come into the forefront.

Please check the bottom of this newsletter for upcoming District 15 events and the various ways you can contact me.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Breaking News
  • UPDATE YOUR W-4. Due to changes the Idaho legislature made to the tax law in 2018, you may need to update your W-4 form to adjust your income tax withholdings. Doing so may insure you don’t underpay your taxes during 2019; otherwise you may have a significant tax due bill in 2020. If you did not adjust your W-4 in 2018, you may have to pay a tax bill instead of receiving a tax refund this April.  Click here for more information: https://tax.idaho.gov/i-2033.cfm 
  • NEW INSURANCE COVERAGE. Starting in 2020, Idaho insurance companies are required to provide coverage for hearing aids and language/speech therapy sessions for children. (Click here to read more.) I was proud and honored to vote for this change.
  • Steve Berch interview with Idaho Matters (NPR). I appeared on the local radio show, Idaho Matters, along with District 15 Representative Jake Ellis. The discussion centered around our experience as new legislators and how we are connecting with our constituents. Click here to hear the interview. 
What's happening at the Legislature
The 2019 Legislative session started on January 7th.  These first weeks are probably the least active as legislation starts to wend its way through committees and eventually onto the House floor for a vote.  But as a new Representative, this is the best time to learn how things work and build relationships. Despite it being early in the session, there are several noteworthy developments:
  • Governor Brad Little delivered his State of the State address, which highlighted several issues important to District 15 constituents, particularly increasing education funding, implementing Medicaid expansion and corrections. One disappointment was not calling for a repeal of the grocery tax in 2019, but he indicated this should be addressed in 2020. Overall, it was a promising start. The ball is now in the legislature’s court. (Click here to read more.)
  • The legislature took the ball and promptly deflated it by setting a revenue projection for next year that falls $93.2 million below Gov. Brad Little’s forecast. It’s hard to increase education funding when the legislature starts by taking nearly $100M off the table.  (Click here to read more.)  
  • The Idaho STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Action Center reported that Idaho left 6,328 STEM-related jobs unfilled in 2018 resulting in $412 million in unpaid wages and the loss of an additional $22M in state revenue. (Click here to read more.)
  • The Public School Funding Formula Interim Committee presented a revamped formula for funding education, switching funding from student attendance to student enrollment. The changes appear to benefit some school districts and hurt others.  I will be advocating for a formula that makes sure all school districts are adequately funded, especially the West Ada and Boise school districts, which are both in District 15. Nothing has yet been decided, but this will be a hot issue as the session progresses. (Click here to read more.) 
Taxpayers will see big differences when they file their Idaho income tax returns for 2018 due to recent changes to tax laws. Here are some of the highlights: 
  • Standard deduction increased. The standard deduction has nearly doubled, increasing to $12,000 for single filers and $18,000 for head-of-household filers. Married couples who file a joint return get a $24,000 deduction. 
  • Exemptions eliminated. Tax filers no longer get an exemption for themselves or their dependents.
  • New child tax credit added. A new Idaho child tax credit of $205 is available for children 16 and under as of December 31, 2018. The credit helps offset the loss of the dependent exemption. 
  • Itemized deductions changed. Most itemized deductions have been capped or eliminated.
  • Income tax rates reduced. The state income tax rates have been reduced. The top rate now is 6.925% instead of the previous 7.4%.
  • New tax laws also expanded one credit and increased a deduction. The state credit for charitable contributions now includes donations to medical residency organizations that are in Idaho. And the amount of expenses Idaho taxpayers can deduct when they adopt a child has increased to $10,000. It was $3,000.

    Visit tax.idaho.gov for more information about the tax changes. For tax help, call (208) 334-7660 in the Boise area or toll free at (800) 972-7660.