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Greetings Friends!

We marked yet another busy week at the State Capitol.This newsletter offers a brief recap of Week Three.

Education Week

The capitol was alive with all things educational last week: students from Boise High School getting well acquainted with the capitol doing a scavenger hunt, presentations to our Education and Joint Finance and Appropriations Committees from our public colleges and universities, the Superintendent Of Public Instruction, State Board of Education, and displays throughout the rotunda from a wide array of professional technical entities, PTA, university clubs, a phenomenal STEM presentation and a visits from students from across Idaho. What an exhilarating week. It was terrific to talk with students, educators and parents. We had the opportunity to receive reports on strategic initiatives and funding plans for the coming year. Notable was a call from Supt. Ybarra for a 7.5% increase in public school funding, a push for greater investment in higher-ed scholarships, and a presentation in support of the Idaho STEM Action Center.

 

Direct Admissions Initiative

I am glad to call your attention to a recently approved effort by the Idaho State Board of Education designed to boost enrollment in Idaho's colleges and universities. The "direct admissions initiative" calls for high school seniors to be conditionally accepted to two and four-year institutions in the state according to their GPA and exam scores. The first notices went out in November, and while students must still complete their school's application process and maintain academic achievement, I feel confident that the impact of this initiative will reap great benefits for Idaho students. How great to be invited to your next educational opportunity! Inspiring. I applaud the State Board of Ed and the colleges and universities for their vision, innovation and dedication to the students of Idaho!

Catastrophic Healthcare Fund Surplus

Idaho taxpayers were the recipients of some outstanding news this week, as the Senate approved Sen. Dan Schmidt's (D-Moscow) bill authorizing the transfer of $28.8 million in surplus funds from the Catastrophic Healthcare program back into the General Fund.

The existence of a surplus in a fund that just five years ago was overextended beyond its allotted budget is truly a remarkable story. It stems from the implementation of Idaho's Healthcare Exchange, and more broadly the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which lowered state costs by extending health insurance to a large population of uninsured Idahoans. Even more dramatic, is the fact that that the benefits of ACA continue to boost our our state's finances. According to budgetary projections, the Catastrophic Healthcare Program is currently running another $8 million dollar surplus, allowing the potential for another transfer next year.

Without a doubt, I believe the best use for that money would be to enact Medicaid Eligibility Expansion. Approximately 78,000 Idahoans remain without access to affordable healthcare. These hardworking Idahoans earn too little income to receive a subsidy on the state exchange, yet earn too much to receive Medicaid coverage. They are caught in the gap. Expanding Medicaid eligibility to encompass these hardworking Idahoans who earn less than 138% of the federal poverty level will save Idaho millions of dollars and at the same time, provide them with much needed healthcare. It is estimated that Idaho's cost to enact this plan is approximately $33 million dollars.

If you agree that we need to Close the Gap, please attend the public hearing on SB 1204 and 1205, the two pieces of legislation that would expand Medicaid. This meeting will take place in front of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday, February 2nd at 3:00 PM in Senate Committee Room WW54. Your voice is critical.

Statue of Liberty Resolution

Representative Hy Kloc introduced a resolution this week honoring the Statue of Liberty on her 130th Birthday. The legislation proclaims that "Idahoans honor the values of America symbolized" by the monument. I am proud to be a co-sponsor. Representative Kloc presented moving testimony in support of the resolution recounting his family's immigration to the United States when he was a child. He powerfully recalled the memory of the first time he saw the Statue of Liberty. This timely bill serves to remind us all of the powerful legacy Lady Liberty symbolizes.

Complimentary Tax Assistance

Tax season is once again upon us, and I am pleased to report that AARP is once again providing free, IRS-certified tax preparation assistance to everyone, young and old, AARP member or not, from February 1st through April 15th. Last year, they helped 32,000 Idahoans file their federal, state, and local tax returns. For more information, click here or simply call 208-855-4004. Thanks, AARP!

Upcoming Townhall Forums

You are cordially invited to meet with my District 19 colleagues, Representatives Mat Erpelding and Melissa Wintrow and me for our town hall meetings during the legislative session. We'll be taking your questions and sharing our perspectives on the issues confronting the State Legislature. I encourage all to attend. Here are the details on the upcoming meetings:

February 17, 2016 - Hidden Springs Club House

5892 W Hidden Springs Dr, Boise, ID 83714

March 2, 2016 - Quail Hollow Golf Course Club House

4520 36th St, Boise, ID 83703

As always, it is both a pleasure and an honor to represent you in the Idaho State Senate. Let's stay connected.

 

Your Senator,

Cherie Buckner-Webb

District 19

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Cherie Buckner-Webb
Senate D-19 Campaign
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Boise, ID 83707

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