New legislators reception

Idaho’s newest state legislators mingle with state officials, state Supreme Court justices, and other lawmakers at a reception on Dec. 5 after the new lawmakers completed three days of orientation and training.

BOISE — When the Idaho Legislature convenes in January, 25 of its members will be brand-new, and that’s not counting two who were just elected after earlier being appointed and serving in prior sessions, or two others who moved over from the Senate to the House.

So what are the characteristics of the Idaho Legislature’s freshman class of 2019? Here are a few:

Of the 25, 18 are men; there are no new women in the Senate, but there are seven new women in the House.

Twenty-three of the 25 are college graduates, and six have advanced degrees.

Seven are Democrats; 18 are Republicans.

Eleven are business owners. Four are retired. Three list past military service in their bios: Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle; Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon; and Rep. Bill Goesling, R-Moscow. And two have served on school boards: Sens. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls; and C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle.

Three have some kind of family connection to the Legislature. New Rep. Kevin Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, is the son of former Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs. New Rep. Linda Wright Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, is married to former Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, whose former seat she won. And new Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg, is the granddaughter of former Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg; she won his former seat.

TWO REP. GREENS

As House members went through the process of picking their seats in order of seniority during their organizational session on Thursday, two new Rep. Greens were seated — freshman Reps. Brooke Green, D-Boise, and John Green, R-Post Falls. House Speaker Scott Bedke remarked, “There’s not been a Rep. Green in the House of Representatives since the 1890s, and now we have two — and they’re sitting by each other.”

The two will be identified in roll calls by both their last name and legislative district number, in order to distinguish them; Rep. Brooke Green will be “Green 18” and Rep. John Green will be “Green 2.”

HILL: ‘YOU’LL PROBABLY HAVE TO PAY’

Idaho Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, a longtime CPA, held up a handout from the state Tax Commission at last week’s Associated Taxpayers of Idaho annual conference, warning, “Avoid a tax surprise: ‘ACT NOW!’” Few did, he said.

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Massive federal tax changes last year included doubling the standard deduction, but eliminating personal and dependent exemptions. At the same time, many other itemized deductions were eliminated or capped, while rates were lowered. Idaho conformed to most of the changes, so they apply to state income taxes, as well.

As a result, the W-4 forms that most Idahoans have had on file with their employers for a decade or more without change no longer matched the appropriate withholding levels for federal and state income taxes. That’s what the Tax Commission was trying to get folks to do: Update their W-4 forms. But most didn’t.

“How does this all play out? It plays out differently than it did for 2017,” Hill said, “it plays out differently on your personal tax returns, and it plays out differently as far as trying to set a state budget.”

Since the fiscal year began, Idaho has seen big shortfalls compared to its projections for personal income tax withholding. That appears to be because all those Idaho taxpayers who didn’t update their W-4 forms are being under-withheld, and as a result, will end up having to pay, both at the federal and state levels, when they file their tax returns this spring.

In most cases, Idahoans actually will be paying less in taxes, Hill said, but they’ve had much less taken out in withholding — so they’ll owe much more at tax time.

That creates a dilemma for lawmakers in setting the state budget. The money probably will come in; Hill said the likelihood may be 90 percent. But what if it doesn’t? “What you’re probably going to see is the Legislature is probably going to be real frugal in setting the budget.”

ANOTHER MONTHLY SHORTFALL

Idaho’s state tax revenues for November came in $15.7 million lower than expected, 6 percent below the forecast and 4.6 percent below collections the previous November. That brings the state fiscal year-to-date shortfall compared to forecasts to $62.9 million, 4.3 percent short of the forecast. Once again, the shortfall stemmed directly from lower than expected personal income tax withholding.

3 GUNS IN 3 DAYS AT BOISE AIRPORT

TSA officials at the Boise Airport say they found three loaded handguns in three days in travelers’ carry-on luggage last week. “One gun in carry-on luggage is one too many,” said Andy Coose, TSA federal security director for Idaho.

Firearms are always prohibited in carry-on luggage. They’re allowed in checked baggage if they’re unloaded, stored in a locked, hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in.

Violators face civil penalties that can range from just under $2,000 to nearly $10,000.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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