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House Bill 41

House Bill 41

Phil Haunschild
January 31, 2017

Bill description: While Idaho doesn’t offer ABLE accounts, this bill would recognize their existence in other states, assist people with the setup of such accounts and disregard savings in those accounts for people on federal assistance programs.

Analyst note: In 2014, Congress approved and President Obama signed the “Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The measure allows people to establish savings accounts for expenses related to their disability like transportation, medical needs, housing and training. These accounts aren’t taxable and their assets do not count against eligibility for federal means-tested programs. A disabled person could have thousands of dollars in an ABLE account and still qualify for federal welfare programs. In 2015, Congress eliminated the requirement that individuals open the ABLE account in the state of their residence, but states still must approve their use by their citizens in other states.

Critics of the program contend it expands the welfare state. The program makes it easy to amass great savings and still participate in government assistance programs. It also uses tax policy to reward certain groups at the expense of others.

Rating: -3

Does it increase government redistribution of wealth? Examples include the use of tax policy or other incentives to reward specific interest groups, businesses, politicians, or government employees with special favors or perks; transfer payments; and hiring additional government employees. Conversely, does it decrease government redistribution of wealth? 

So long as the money from ABLE accounts is used for disability-related expenses, the income remains untaxed. While this bill does not create ABLE accounts in Idaho, it creates a mechanism wherein the state will actively encourage residents to open such accounts, thereby helping redistribute wealth.  (-1)

Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it eliminate or curtail the size or scope of government?

The second portion of this bill allows the state to establish a “function to provide individuals with disabilities, and those assisting them, technical assistance relating to the ABLE act. Such function shall be within the Idaho state independent living council until such time as it might be assigned to another appropriate agency.” (-1)

Does it transfer a function of the private sector to the government?
There are for profit and non-profit groups that help people set up ABLE accounts. These include Able Now, Special Needs Alliance, and Able United. It is unnecessary for the state government to participate in this role. Equally important, this bill transfers a private function to the state government. (-1)

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