January 9, 2011 in Idaho

Eye on Boise: Labrador hires ex-rival’s ‘most important person’

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – New GOP congressman Raul Labrador has hired outgoing Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick’s constituent services director, Lisa Anderson, to be his constituent services director. “Essentially she’ll be performing the same job that she was doing for Rep. Minnick,” said Phil Hardy, Labrador spokesman.

“She’s extremely dedicated, and she came out as the most qualified person who had applied for the job,” Hardy said.

Labrador had complimented Minnick’s constituent service record during the otherwise testy campaign in which Labrador defeated Minnick in November.

“He’s going to continue providing the very best level of constituent services to the people of the 1st Congressional District, absolutely,” Hardy said.

Labrador announced the hire of Anderson, who will continue to serve in the Meridian office for the 1st District congressman, along with a slew of others as the new session of Congress begins.

John Foster, former campaign manager and communications director for Minnick, praised Labrador’s move to hire Anderson.

“I used to say without joking she was the most important person in our office,” Foster said. “This is one of the more savvy things I’ve ever seen from a political office, so kudos to him for hiring her. She’s aces. … I have to tip my hat – it’s in the best interest of the constituents to keep her around.”

State played a role in unemployment

Asked about the state’s contribution to unemployment – 2,800 state jobs have been eliminated since 2006 – legislative leaders had a variety of responses. House Speaker Lawerence Denney said, “It takes 11 private-sector jobs to provide the funds for one public sector job, so I think that’s a distinction that we need to make. Yes, we are contributing to the unemployment by downsizing government, but on the other hand, we’re actually increasing the amount of revenue we have available.”

House Minority Leader John Rusche, a physician, said: “A lot of what the state does is not hire employees, it’s purchase services in the private sector, particularly in the health care world. It’s not just the 2,800 state employees. It’s the health care providers, it’s the educational providers, it’s people who own gravel pits, it’s all of those things that end up having less jobs, and we do what we have to do, but I just think that we have to be conscious.”

Rusche noted that if the state’s Medicaid program is cut by $150 million, the impact is tripled by the lost federal matching funds when state funding is eliminated. “So that’s $450 million, $500 million less a year into the health care industry,” he said. “Any idea how many jobs that is? It’s a lot. It’s about 4,000 or 5,000.”

Idaho had 6th-worst job loss

Since the recession began, Idaho’s seen more job loss than most states, according to Bob Fick of the Idaho Department of Labor. Idaho ranked sixth nationally for job loss, second only to Nevada in the region. From October 2007 to October 2010, Idaho lost 8.1 percent of its jobs. Washington, by comparison, lost 4.6 percent.

With record numbers of Idahoans drawing unemployment, unemployment payments have helped keep the workers in Idaho, Fick said, and “have done a little bit to help ease the economic drag of this recession.” Current forecasts show that Idaho’s employment won’t return to pre-recession levels until 2014, Fick said. “The outlook is for growth, but very limited growth.”

State hit jackpot, too

When a lucky person bought a winning Mega Millions lottery ticket in Post Falls, that winner not only hit a $190 million jackpot – he or she triggered a jackpot for the state, too. That’s because lottery winnings are taxable under Idaho’s state income tax. “That’s going to be about $15 million that we’ll see in a windfall for the state,” said House Tax Chairman Dennis Lake. Turning to Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, Lake said, “Dean, spend it wisely.”

The $15 million is the taxes due on $190 million. If the winner opts for the lump-sum payout of $120 million, Idaho state income taxes will be a little over $9 million.


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