(BOISE, ID) — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter wants to eliminate Idaho’s $141 million personal property tax, and then reimburse local governments for money they’d lose with a combination of state funding and cash they’d raise through new taxes. Otter outlined his intentions during Monday’s 2013 State of the State address, where he also unveiled a $2.8 billion budget, roughly 3 percent more than the current year.
The Republican governor set aside $20 million to pay cities, counties and school districts for the money they’d lose from repealing the personal property tax. To make up other lost revenue, Otter suggests giving local governments more flexibility to ask voters to raise their own taxes. Otter’s budget recommends a new mental health facility and socking away rainy day funding.
It does not seek pay raises for state employees.
The Governor also acknowledged Monday that for some families, 2012 was a year of tragedy.
Six members of the military died: Lance Corporal Kenneth Cochran of Canyon County; Sgt. Daniel J. Brown of Twin Falls; Specialist Chris Workman of Rupert; Specialist Cody Moosman of Preston; Specialist Ethan Martin of Bonners Ferry; and Private First Class Shane Wilson of Kuna.
Meanwhile, Anne Veseth, a young U.S. Forest Service firefighter from Moscow, was killed in August fighting a wildfire in Clearwater County.
Otter cited Veseth’s sacrifice as he announced an effort to create four new state-affiliated volunteer firefighting organizations, with about $400,000 in public funding from Idaho.
The 2014 budget proposal also includes money to expand the number of seats for Idaho in a regional program that educates medical students.
The Govenor outlined funding for five additional Idaho seats in WWAMI – the partnership between Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho and the University of Washington.
Idaho already has 20 seats in the program. But Otter says that’s insufficient considering population growth and shortage of doctors in rural corners of the state.
Otter says the five extra seats would go to students involved in the Targeted Rural and Under-Served Track – a program designed to get physicians in smaller communities.
Otter cited a study showing that Idaho has the nation’s sixth-oldest physician workforce.
Lois M. Collins, Deseret News
Adam Forsgren, EastIdahoNews.com Columnist