Loss Of Federal Timber Payments Hit Idaho Harder Than Most States

Mar 11, 2015

Idaho is among five U.S. states losing the largest amount of federal timber payments aimed at rural counties and school districts.

Congress let the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expire in the fall of 2014, leaving Idaho counties and school districts with $26 million less than expected.

ProPublica /

Investigative news outlet ProPublica partnered with NPR to compile a trove of data about workers compensation laws across the country. Their findings paint a vivid picture of how workers comp – established to ensure injured workers get the medical help they need after getting hurt on the job – has been significantly eroded by state legislatures, and how the scaling back of those benefits has impacted workers.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The Basin School District in Idaho City has something most districts in the state don’t, preschool.

On Wednesdays, 12 preschoolers leave their small house-turned-school and walk across the playground to the high school’s music room. The children sit cross-legged in a circle and the music teacher hands out two brightly-colored sticks to each student. Music class for these preschoolers is all about rhythm, following directions, and giggling.

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According to the financial website WalletHub, Idaho is the 9th worst state for women. Lists ranking states on various things come out almost daily and we don’t often report on them, and WalletHub in particular is a list juggernaut. But this one caught our eye.

Idaho was dead last for women’s preventative health care, but in the middle of the state rankings for women’s health care overall.

Devin Ferrell / Hackfort, Treefort Music Fest

The technology-centered offshoot of Treefort Music Fest, Hackfort, got about as high-profile an endorsement an event can ask for.

During his address at Boise State University in January, President Barack Obama gave a shout-out to the event about halfway through his speech.

Sara Creech has grown dependent on farming. She started out planting an orchard of fruit trees: apples, peaches, cherries and pears. She added berry bushes and rows of vegetables.

And then she bought her first chickens.

"A lot of people call chickens the gateway animal," says Creech, who lives in rural North Salem, Ind. "Like once you have a chicken on the farm, then you end up getting sheep on the farm, and then you end up getting horses, and cows. And then it just explodes from there."

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A new online media project called Built in Boise launched last week. Its purpose is to tell the stories of local companies doing interesting things.

The website's first stories included a husband-and-wife team who sell gourmet donuts, a game designer, and a banker-turned-paddle-board mogul.

A panel in the Idaho Senate introduced a bill that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour -- a $2 per hour increase -- by next year. 

Uber app

Ridesharing company Uber has suspended operations in Boise.

The company in a three-page letter to city leaders on Thursday says it became clear at a city council work session on Tuesday that the city plans to impose unworkable and onerous regulations. Uber spokesperson Michael Amodeo says the company does vehicle inspections and background checks on drivers.

“We think additional background checks would just place an additional hurdle or barrier to entry for our drivers that would make it more difficult for them to earn a living with the Uber platform," says Amodeo.

A new measure backed by Idaho Power Co. would allow business owners to resell public utility electricity to electric car drivers.

The House State Affairs Committee voted Tuesday to introduce a bill permitting companies to buy the electricity from a public utility and then resell it to charge electric car batteries.

Rich Hahn from Idaho Power says that current state law prevents reselling electricity provided by a public utility. This means businesses are footing the bill for having electric car charging stations.

David G. Steadman / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study says the five tribes of Idaho play a major role in the state’s economy. The study was put together by University of Idaho research economist Steve Peterson. It says the five tribes have a $1.1 billion annual sales impact on the Gem State’s economy.

The five tribes collectively raise the gross state product by $653 million, or about 1 percent of the gross state product in 2013.

Steve Peterson says a big portion of the money comes from tribal casinos, which have also helped to foster partnerships with local businesses and governments.

Allegiant Adds Nonstop Boise To Los Angeles Flight

Feb 24, 2015
Allegiant Air

Low-cost airline Allegiant announced Tuesday morning it will offer a nonstop flight from Boise to Los Angeles beginning June 5.

Allegiant already operates direct flights from Boise to Las Vegas.

The airline's new Boise to LA flight will be offered twice each week, with one-way fares starting at $43.

Oil companies in North Dakota are looking for the fastest and cheapest way to get their product to refineries, and they've set their sights on moving more of their product by rail to the Northwest.

There are six new oil terminals proposed for Washington state. Half of them could be built in the small communities around Grays Harbor, a bay on the Pacific coast about 50 miles north of the mouth of the Columbia River.

Kyle Green
Courtesy Idaho Statesman

Boise State University football coach Bryan Harsin has a new contract that pays him $6.25 million over five years.

The Idaho State Board or Education on Thursday approved the deal for Harsin who in his first season last year guided the Broncos to a 12-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl win.

The new deal replaces a previous contract that awarded Harsin a one-year extension for winning nine or more games.

The new agreement awards a one-year extension for eight or more wins.

Washington State Department Of Transportation / Flickr Creative Commons

The continuing labor dispute between a West Coast dock workers union and the Pacific Maritime Association is causing headaches for Idaho businesses. Twenty-nine ports in California, Oregon and Washington have been impacted by shutdowns. provided a rare look Friday inside one of its gigantic, high tech warehouses.

Dave Hosford / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho liquor sales are up.

Idaho State Liquor Division Director Jeff Anderson says sales of distilled spirits in fiscal year 2014 that ended in July went up 4.8 percent over the previous year.

The Spokesman-Review reports that Anderson told lawmakers on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee that proceeds reached $63 million.

Anderson in his presentation Friday attributes some of the increase to Washington state residents driving across the border to buy cheaper booze.

John Milner / Flickr Creative Commons

When it comes to determining America's best ski towns, it's not always about the best powder or accommodations. 

For the second year, real estate information company RealtyTrac has published a list of the best ski towns for investing. Three Idaho spots make this year’s list. 

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Every year in late January volunteers around the country, and across Idaho, take to the streets to ask people experiencing homelessness where they slept on a particular night. It's a difficult task because people who sleep in their cars or in parks -- known as unsheltered homeless -- can be hard to find. But the numbers volunteers come up with are important because they're used for things like setting federal funding for local homeless programs.

Oregon could leapfrog Washington to have the highest state minimum wage in the country if the Democratically-controlled legislature approves a proposed increase.