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Eye on Boise: Women just a hair closer to getting pay that men get

BOISE – Idaho women earned 75.2 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in 2011, according to new U.S. census data.

That was an improvement from a year earlier, when Idaho women earned 73.9 cents per dollar of their male counterparts’ earnings, the data showed, but Idaho still ranked 42nd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for its earnings parity; this is for full-time, year-round workers.

The national average for 2011 was 77 cents. Washington was above the national average at 77.3 cents; Wyoming had the largest gap, at 66.6 cents.

The National Women’s Law Center, which analyzed the new data, reported that from 2010 to 2011, gender wage gaps narrowed in 24 states – including Idaho – while they increased in seven states and stayed flat in 20, including Washington.

Homeowner’s tax break drops

Idaho has set the maximum homeowner’s exemption from property tax for next year: It will decline from the current $83,974 to $81,000. “The decrease is smaller than last year’s,” said Alan Dornfest, property tax policy supervisor for the Idaho Tax Commission. “This reflects the fact that housing prices trended downward but at a slower pace than last year.”

The exemption, which is for 50 percent of the assessed value up to the maximum amount, was capped at $50,000 from 1983 to 2006, when it was increased to $75,000 and tied to housing prices. That caused it to hit a high of $104,471 in 2009, after the state’s housing prices soared, but it declined as prices collapsed.

More inmates sent to private prison

Idaho has sent another 120 of its state prison inmates to a private prison in Colorado, bringing the total transferred there in the past few months to 250. The moves are aimed at easing overpopulation in Idaho lockups.

The latest group of inmates was transported by bus in four groups over the past two weeks. They’re being housed at Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, Colo., a medium-security prison owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the same private prison firm that runs the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise.

Consultant finishes Medicaid report

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has received its full report from consultant Leavitt Partners on potential expansion of Medicaid in Idaho under the Affordable Care Act, and Gov. Butch Otter’s Medicaid expansion working group has scheduled a meeting Thursday to review the report.

Among the report’s findings: There’s no deadline for the state to decide whether to expand its Medicaid program, and states can opt out of the expansion at any time. If Idaho decides to expand, the report recommends doing so in 2014, giving the state a full three years of 100 percent federal funding, with the option of opting out after those three years. That would require taking steps now to prepare, it notes.

Other points in the report: Most of those who would become eligible for expanded Medicaid in Idaho have incomes of less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level: 75 percent of them fall below that level, and despite those low incomes, 64 percent are employed.

Idaho’s existing Medicaid program offers no coverage to childless adults. Its current income limit for jobless parents is about 21 percent of the federal poverty level – that’s $4,584 a year for a family of four – and for working parents, 39 percent. The expansion would cover people with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty line.

Labrador’s day off

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican from Idaho’s 1st District, took last Wednesday off from House business to stump for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Florida in a pitch to Hispanic voters. That trip came just days after his election opponent, Democrat Jimmy Farris, criticized Labrador for missing more votes than all three of his predecessors in Congress and than anyone else in the delegation. Though 27 votes were scheduled in the House that day, Labrador ended up missing just two recorded votes; the rest were either delayed or approved on unrecorded voice votes.

ISP planned to ‘De-Occupy Boise’

The Idaho ACLU says its ongoing lawsuit over the state’s attempts to outlaw the Occupy Boise protest vigil from state property across from the Capitol has turned up a multi-agency law enforcement plan dubbed “Operation De-Occupy Boise.” The group says the plan called for “arrests and detention of protesters, despite that the new state anti-camping statute only authorizes ticketing violators, not arrest.”

The state, in legal arguments filed with the federal court, argued against releasing the documents through the discovery process, saying they were subject to a law enforcement privilege, as they “reflect planned operations that the Idaho State Police developed to implement 2012 Idaho laws” and could identify individuals involved and the state’s methods for conducting “potentially complex enforcement actions.” The operation was canceled after the federal court issued a restraining order; a federal judge ordered redacted versions of the documents released.