Bringing the Economy Home

Molly Messick

Reporter (Former)

Molly Messick was StateImpact Idaho's broadcast reporter until May 2013. Prior to joining StateImpact and Boise State Public Radio, she was a reporter and host for Wyoming Public Radio. She is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Will Idaho’s Health Insurance Exchange Bring More Competition?

Wenzday01 / Flickr

The Obama administration has taken a few hits this month over the federal health care law. The administration’s decision to put off creating an insurance marketplace aimed at small businesses brought dismay. Then, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) predicted a “train wreck coming” as key aspects of Obamacare are implemented. His concern? People simply don’t understand what the law does. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey backs that up.

Now, a Stateline article argues the lack of competing health insurers within some states could hamper the health insurance exchanges established under the law. Continue Reading

Idaho’s Unemployment Rate Holds Steady As Labor Force Shrinks

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Idaho's housing sector has shown signs of improvement, but the monthly jobs report attributes the state's flat unemployment rate to a contracting workforce.

Idaho’s jobless rate remained flat last month, at 6.2 percent. The Idaho Department of Labor’s monthly report says the rate is holding steady despite anemic hiring because of an ongoing decline in the size of the state’s workforce.

Total employment fell by about 600 people in March, even as employers hired about 13,000 workers, according to the report.

Since December of last year, more than 2,600 people have dropped out of Idaho’s workforce.  That reverses gains made in 2012 as the economy showed signs of recovery.  It means the state’s labor force is about the same size as it was in 2011.  Continue Reading

Dollar Bills, Where They Move, And What It Shows About Idaho’s Ties To Other States

There’s a discussion we have from time to time in the Boise State Public Radio newsroom, about geography and how we cover the news. In many respects — politically, for example — Idaho has more in common with the Rocky Mountain States that lie to its east and south than it does with its neighbors to the west. On the other hand, a lot of transplants to the state come from Washington and California.

I thought of that discussion yesterday when I read Robert Krulwich’s latest blog entry, A ‘Whom Do You Hang With?” Map of America. At the top of the piece, Krulwich walks through the findings of a study on population mobility, which relies on data tracking the movement of dollar bills. The study results in a map covered in blue lines of varying strength that don’t correspond to state lines. The areas delineated by strong blue lines are areas in which dollars bills tend to circulate and stay.

Dirk Brockmann/Northwestern University via NPR

The map shows this of Idaho: Continue Reading

Electricity Rate Hikes Are Here To Stay

Don Barrett / Flickr

Idaho Power's Hells Canyon Dam, on the Snake River

As StateImpact has reported, Idaho Power on Monday submitted a proposal to raise customer rates by as much as 15.34 percent, on average, for the next year.

The price hike is largely the result of low rainfall and snowpack, which have lowered Idaho Power’s production of hydroelectricity — a comparatively cheap resource.

The Idaho Conservation League’s Ben Otto points out that Idaho Power customers will likely see more such price increases in years to come.

“The Snake River, really, is the driver of our system,” he explains. “The 20- to 30-year models of stream flows show declining flows into the future, because we have a lot of competing uses of water.”  Continue Reading

U.S. Bank Shareholder Meeting Brings Protesters to Boise

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Protesters held letters spelling "U.S. Bank Is Stripping Our Wealth."

About 40 demonstrators turned out as U.S. Bank held its annual shareholders’ meeting at Boise State University’s Morrison Center today.

Protesters lined up outside one entrance, shouting a steady stream of chants: “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” and “Hey, hey, it’s not fair! U.S. Bank, pay your share!”

At last year’s shareholder meeting, in Minneapolis, U.S. Bank’s CEO faced questions from local activists about mortgage loan modifications and lending practices. Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN) executive director Terri Sterling said she and others from the region wanted to keep up the pressure at this year’s meeting. Continue Reading

One Idaho Investor Watches His Bet On Gold Go South

REUTERS/Michael Buholzer / Landov

Thanks to a $29,000 investment in gold, Pocatello man Jon Norstog got a nod in the paper of record this week. Norstog’s nest egg may still shine, but since 2011 it has lost 42 percent of its value.

“I thought if worst came to worst and the government brought down the world economy, I would still have something that was worth something,” Norstog tells The New York Times.

Does this state, known for having its fair share of survivalists, have more than the usual number of gold bugs? “It might be logical to think that, but I’m not certain!” says Patricia Highley, a senior securities analyst with the Idaho Department of Finance. The agency regulates commodity investment contracts, but it has nothing to say about the cash purchase of gold.  Continue Reading

Foreclosed Homeowners To Receive First Round Of Settlement Payments

Warzau Wynn / Flickr Creative Commons

We’ve noticed how many people are coming to this post. Would some of you like to help us with our future reporting? We’d like to talk to people in Idaho who receive settlement checks. If you receive one and you’re open to telling us about your experience, please send us an email.

Idahoans who lost their homes to foreclosure in 2009 or 2010 and had loans through any of these mortgage servicers soon could receive some measure of compensation. Payment checks will be in the mail Friday, the result of a $9.3 billion settlement between banks and federal banking regulators.

There is no information available about how many foreclosed homeowners will receive compensation in each state, says a Treasury Department spokesman. The New York Times‘ Dealbook blog offers this summary of who will receive the first round of cash relief:  Continue Reading

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter Reiterates Wish To Hold Off On Expanding Medicaid Eligibility

Aaron Kunz / Boise State Public Radio

Gov. Butch Otter talked with reporters at the Associated Press legislative preview, Jan. 4, 2013.

“There’s no definite decision on not expanding Medicaid, yet.”

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter offered that equivocal statement in a press conference marking the close of the 2013 legislative session. He’s determined, he said, to find ways to inject more personal accountability into Idaho’s Medicaid system.

“We’ll get eight months and some change in order to continue to study that,” Otter said. “I will try to keep, to the extent that I can, all of the legislators in the state aware of our progress toward the first of next January.”

The federal Affordable Care Act encourages states to expand Medicaid eligibility and allow people who live at or below 138 percent of the poverty line to enroll in the entitlement program. Currently in Idaho, a single adult earns too much to qualify for Medicaid if he earns more than $205 a month. If access expands, that cut-off point would rise to just over $1,320 per month.  Continue Reading

Gov. Otter Signs Personal Property Tax Bill, Calls For Full Repeal

Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

Gov. Otter advocated eliminating Idaho's business personal property tax in his State of the State address.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter today signed a bill to partially repeal Idaho’s business personal property tax, calling it “a good and important start toward the goal of eliminating the personal property tax in Idaho.”

In his letter to the Legislature the governor urges lawmakers to take the issue up again, and do away with the tax altogether.

The tax on business equipment and machinery generates approximately $140 million annually for local government and taxing districts. The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI) has for years pushed for its full repeal, an aim Gov. Otter endorsed in his State of the State address in January. Continue Reading

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