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.

In Two Charts, The Potential Costs And Savings Of Expanded Medicaid Access In Idaho

Lawmakers are still in Boise, where they’re grappling with the education budget past their wished-for departure date. Even with the extra time, it appears the push to expand Medicaid eligibility won’t resume this session.

That discussion so far has centered on potential costs and savings with and without expanded access for Idaho’s poor. Counterintuitively, county budgets and the state general fund could realize millions in savings if lawmakers and the governor opt to allow more people to enroll in the federal entitlement program. So, just how much savings will state leaders forgo if they delay Medicaid expansion by, say, six months? (That is, if they expand access to the program starting in the 2015 fiscal year, instead of in January 2014.)

According to consulting firm Milliman, county budgets collectively will miss out on an estimated $16.6 million in savings during that six-month period. The state general fund will pass up $6.2 million.**

Data Source: Milliman | Chart: Molly Messick

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Mental Health, Preventive Care, And The Debate Over Medicaid Expansion In Idaho

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Mitch Ponting is grateful he's doing well, and building relationships with his family.

When the 2013 legislative session wraps up, a big policy question will remain: Will the state make Medicaid available to a greater number of Idaho’s poor? The federal health care law encourages that move. It’s a debate that involves potential costs and savings, along with patient well-being. And it turns quickly to chronic conditions, like mental illness.

Mitchell Ponting is 48 years old with neatly trimmed gray hair and a quick smile. When he was paroled from prison last summer after serving two years on drug charges, he faced an immediate problem.

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County Commissioner’s Response To Business Tax Resolution: Relief

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Power County Commissioner Vicki Meadows, at the oil seed processing company she runs with her husband.

The 2013 legislative session won’t wrap up tomorrow, as many hoped. But lawmakers have come to near-unanimous agreement on an issue we’ve tracked closely: the business personal property tax. A bill backed by the Idaho Association of Counties passed the Idaho Senate on Tuesday without opposition.

I decided to follow up with Power County Commissioner Vicki Meadows. We met in January, when it wasn’t at all clear how lawmakers would handle the push to repeal the tax on business equipment and machinery.

The tax generates $140 million dollars annually for local government, and Meadows’ county relies on that revenue more than most. Two months ago, she said she thought Power County might have to be dissolved if the tax went away.   Continue Reading

Could A “Third Option” Make Medicaid Expansion More Palatable In Idaho?

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

Idaho's 2013 legislative session is expected to wrap up Friday.

In total, Idaho lawmakers took more than 15 hours of floor debate this legislative session to determine that Idaho should create a state-based health insurance exchange. It was an act of compliance with the federal health care law that raised the hackles of many conservative Idaho lawmakers. The law’s optional Medicaid expansion — which by some assessments could prove trickier and more divisive than the health exchange debate — will not come up this session.

Times-News reporter Melissa Davlin points out that the delay could turn the Medicaid expansion into a litmus test for Republican lawmakers next year, when fall elections loom.  Continue Reading

Last-Minute Push For Medicaid Expansion Fails In House Committee

House Minority Leader John Rusche (D-Lewiston) this morning made an unorthodox push for action on a pair of bills that would expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho and do away with the state’s catastrophic healthcare fund. As the Idaho Statesman‘s Dan Popkey writes:

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, took the rare step of using a parliamentary move to force a committee chairman to hold a hearing on legislation against his will. His gambit failed Monday morning, when House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Fred Wood of Burley was supported by his GOP colleagues.  — Idaho Statesman

Rep. Rusche and Chairman Wood are not at odds on the issue. Wood, like Rusche, favors opting into the Medicaid expansion that is a central component of the federal Affordable Care Act.   Continue Reading

Low Inventory Continues To Drive Up Treasure Valley Home Prices

Tim Boyle / Getty Images

Spring marks the start of the busy season for home-buying and selling. In the Treasure Valley, the housing market mirrors national trends. The story is one of few homes for sale, and high demand.

Mike Turner, an agent with Front Street Brokers in Boise, will tell you: the local housing market was competitive last spring, and it’s even more competitive now.  “A year ago, we had really low inventory,” he says. “Now, shockingly, we have even less inventory!”

Data from the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service shows that there were 12 percent fewer homes on the market in Ada County in January and February of this year compared to last. In Canyon County, the gap was just over 10 percent.  Continue Reading

Personal Property Tax Bill Keeps Its Quick Pace Through The Idaho Legislature

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Sen. Jeff Siddoway (R-Rexburg) chairs the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee.

After minimal discussion, the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee gave unanimous approval to the personal property tax proposal that sailed through the House early this week.

Chairman Jeff Siddoway (R-Rexburg) noted, to laughter, that all of those signed up to testify on the bill were in favor of it. “As I look through the agenda here, there are no cons. Everyone’s a pro. So don’t blow this!” he said.

The bill, HB 315, is effectively a $20 million tax cut for Idaho businesses, backed by the Idaho Association of Counties. Among other provisions, it establishes an exemption for the first $100,000 worth of personal property owned by every business in the state, in every county of operation.   Continue Reading

Updated: Lawmakers Get Behind Partial Repeal Of Idaho’s Personal Property Tax

Updated: The House will debate a personal property tax bill, HB 315, at 3:30 this afternoon, according to reports. The bill was introduced yesterday in the House Ways & Means Committee and won unanimous support in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee this morning.

A personal property tax bill supported by the Idaho Association of Counties and introduced Monday in the House Ways & Means Committee won unanimous approval in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee this morning.

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Seth Grigg of the Idaho Association of Counties presented the personal property tax legislation to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Revenue and Taxation Chairman Gary Collins (R-Nampa) said after the vote he believes this bill can win the Legislature’s support this session.

“We have tried to come up with something that we felt could make it through both bodies, and hopefully the governor will sign,” Collins said. “Depending on whose figures you look at, almost 90 percent of the businesses will be relieved of the personal property tax, and I see that as a very good thing.”  Continue Reading

Idaho Counties Introduce Expanded Business Tax Exemption Plan

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Seth Grigg of the Idaho Association of Counties presented the new bill this afternoon.

A new personal property tax bill from the Idaho Association of Counties was introduced in the House Ways & Means Committee Monday afternoon. This bill broadens the business personal property tax exemptions that would be granted under the Association of Counties’ existing bill, which was introduced the week before last.

The new bill would exempt items with an acquisition price of $3,000 or less from the tax on business equipment and machinery. It would also exempt the first $100,000 of business personal property from taxation for all businesses in the state. That means operating property owners, like railroads and public utilities, could now claim the exemption. Continue Reading

Medicaid Expansion Could Mean Greater Benefit To Idaho Budgets Than First Estimated

Consulting group Milliman this afternoon will tell Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s Medicaid work group that Idaho could save more money than previously estimated by expanding Medicaid eligibility.

The Medicaid expansion is a key component of the federal Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the law’s constitutionality gave states the ability to decide whether to expand eligibility to those who live at or below 138 percent of the poverty line.

According to Milliman’s updated calculation, which takes into consideration new information from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), net savings to Idaho county budgets and the state general fund could total $9.8 million over a decade, rather than the $6 million earlier projected.   Continue Reading

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