January 6, 2013 in Idaho

Eye on Boise: Labrador mum on Boehner vote abstention

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador not only abstained from the vote to re-elect John Boehner as speaker of the U.S. House, he collected a vote himself for the post.

Ohio GOP Rep. Justin Amash, who’s at odds with his party leadership and recently was stripped of his committee assignments, sent out this tweet about his decision to vote for Labrador instead of Boehner: “Proud 2 vote 4 @raul_labrador 4 Spkr. Raul would defend liberty & work honestly w/Ds on debt reduction. We must act now 4 sake of next gen.”

Only 12 House Republicans didn’t support Boehner’s re-election bid as speaker; he won with 220 votes, six more than were required. Labrador had no comment about why he abstained. “He’s not saying anything,” spokesman Phil Hardy said.

Idaho gets nod for exchange

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter was notified late last week that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has “conditionally approved” Idaho’s plan to operate a state-based health insurance exchange.

“We commend Idaho for taking this important step towards providing affordable health insurance for consumers,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius wrote in a letter to Otter on Thursday. “Congratulations on reaching this milestone on the path to establishing an exchange for the people of Idaho.”

Jon Hanian, Otter’s press secretary, said: “It shows that despite an extremely difficult timeline, staff did a pretty good job of pulling all the various required components together. If we get approval from the Legislature, then we have HHS’ approval to go ahead and move forward with the plans we submitted. … It means that we’d eventually probably have their full approval for running it on our own, which is what the governor identified as the reason we’re doing this.”

Otter convened a working group that studied the issue for months before overwhelmingly recommending that Idaho opt for a state-based exchange to enable residents to shop for health insurance plans and access government subsidies rather than let the federal government run Idaho’s exchange. The exchanges are required under the national health care reform law, which also requires that people purchase insurance. Idaho had been exploring the exchange idea well before the law passed.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have now been conditionally approved to partially or fully run their own exchanges.

Growth to be same as 2012

Bob Maynard, chief investment officer for the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho, told lawmakers on the joint Economic Outlook and Revenue Projection Committee that the coming year’s economy is widely expected to be similar to this past year: “Subdued and stumbling growth, good equity markets, flat bond markets.”

He said, “2012 was pretty close to forecast. Basically the world economies muddled through. … Next year is expected to be more of the same.” For example, he said, in 2012 the S&P 500 was up 15 percent, compared to an expected 12 percent. “That’s pretty much a bull’s-eye given the pessimism of last year,” Maynard said. “Markets again expect about 12 percent equity yields and flat bond markets.” He added, “Right now, bonds are tremendously unattractive.”

Maynard said, “The capital markets run off of expectations, not current conditions. And the current economic expectations are moderate.”

He was among an array of economic experts and business representatives addressing the joint legislative panel Thursday and Friday, as lawmakers begin mulling where to set the revenue estimate on which the state budget for next year will be based. The panel, co-chaired this year by Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, will reconvene Thursday to finalize its report to the Legislature.

‘Worse than no deal at all’

Three-fourths of Idaho’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the last-minute compromise bill to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” with just Labrador voting no. Labrador said, “This was a difficult vote, but as far as I am concerned the Biden-McConnell deal is worse than no deal at all.”

2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson joined the majority in supporting the bill. “While I remain a strong proponent of a more comprehensive approach to solving our nation’s long-term fiscal crisis, this bill is a critical piece of legislation that lowers taxes for nearly every taxpayer,” Simpson said.

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both voted in favor of the measure, saying it protects 99 percent of Idahoans from a tax increase and was “a victory for working Idahoans.”

The bill passed the Senate on an 89-8 vote just after 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day; it passed the House 257-167 around 11 p.m. that day.


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