Tax issues, health insurance exchange keep lawmakers hopping

Taxes and a health insurance exchange were the main topics of discussion at Thursday's legislative breakfast.
Each Thursday members of the Bingham County legislative delegation speak with members of the community via Skype hookup. The Greater Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce sponsors the meeting at Stan's Restaurant.
Representatives Julie VanOrden and Neil Anderson are among 16 freshman members of the House who are encouraging Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter to include members of the Legislature on a proposed exchange oversight committee.
"Obamacare is going to require a Health Insurance Exchange to happen," Anderson said. He said the issue between accepting a federal exchange or creating one that is state-run is the question of having some control.
"In my mind, the better choice is to have a state exchange, one we have some control over," he said.
Lamar Hagar asked how a state exchange would allow more choice when Blue Cross/Blue Shield controls a large share of Idaho's insurance business.
Hagar suggested that company's lobbyists are strongly encouraging legislators to favor their employer.
"There are lobbyists from a lot of companies," Sen. Steve Bair said. "To think that (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) get preferential treatment is not correct."
An unidentified woman asked why Idaho can't exercise its 10th Amendment rights and nullify Obamacare.
"Gov. Otter tried that," Anderson said. "It seems to be a fact we need to live with. We've got to deal with what's forced on us."
Both Hagar and Blackfoot Mayor Mike Virtue asked about personal property taxes. Hagar asked why corporations are being asked to pay large amounts when large private landowners got relief a few years ago. Virtue asked about a proposal to lower that tax on corporations.
Bair said he voted against confirming Otter's choice of Joan Hurlock of Buhl as a member of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
He said he was among senators who met with her privately, trying to learn more about her background. The Senate rejected her 19-16.
"It was clear she didn't have the knowledge base and background to do the job well," Bair said.
Another question dealt with a change in weight limits for tractor-trailers. Idaho's limit is currently 105,000 pounds.
"This has come before the legislature several times," Bair said. "Many of the surrounding states have 129,000-pound limits."
Raising Idaho's would allow truckers to be more efficient with their loads, Bair said. He said a concern over increased wear on the state's roads and bridges doesn't appear to valid.