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Columns
Reader Comment: Lawsuit over grocery tax highlights dysfunctional leadership

When you look around the country, you will find only seven states that charge the maximum sales tax on groceries. Unfortunately, Idaho is one of them. Two of the other states are Alabama and Mississippi — two states we never want to be compared to unless we’re talking about the Boise State football team. That’s why I voted this past session to repeal the state sales tax on groceries. I don’t believe government should be dipping its hands into our grocery bags. This is especially true for cities and towns along Idaho’s borders who bleed grocery shoppers to states that do not tax food. Not only are we losing grocery dollars across the border, but also money people spend at retail outlets and restaurants before or after they grocery shop. The grocery tax repeal is common sense tax reform for working families that doubles as economic development legislation.

The saga of the grocery tax repeal took an interesting turn recently when a group of lawmakers filed a lawsuit alleging the governor missed his veto deadline by a day. Although long-standing case law belies their contention, they will argue that a “plain reading” of the Idaho Constitution and applicable statutes support their case. Whether they will prevail remains to be seen. The real question is: How did we get here in the first place?

The answer is a lack of leadership. Instead of putting working Idahoans first at the beginning of the session, the majority proposed a silver-spoon tax plan that would have benefitted privileged Idahoans at the expense of the rest of us. While high-income Idahoans would have seen $750 in annual savings under the proposal, working families would have been stuck with a lousy $32. It’s what I like to call the “gas tank & Happy Meal” tax plan because that’s about all it would buy for the average Idahoan. Thankfully, the Democratic leaders in the Senate were instrumental in amending this harmful tax bill into the grocery tax repeal. Faced with no choice but to vote in favor of it, House Republicans passed the amended bill, which Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter ultimately vetoed ... or did he?

All of those machinations took up valuable legislative time that could have gone toward debating sensible tax reform that increases revenue while spreading a reasonable burden among a wide swath of Idahoans. Instead, we had no choice but to force the grocery tax issue late in the session. That, combined with an arbitrary end-date (sine die) resulted in the bill hitting the governor’s desk after the session ended. Despite veto-proof margins, the legislature never had the chance to exercise its Constitutional right of override. This lack of leadership and the governor’s (potential) carelessness proved to be a recipe for disruption. And now, the majority’s dirty laundry will be aired in court where anything could happen. This is not governing, this is chaos. And once again, the region is poised to roll its collective eyes at Idaho.

Surveys consistently show that education, health care and the economy are by far the most important issues to Idahoans. They are complicated issues (“Who knew they could be so complicated?”) that require diligent lawmakers with creative solutions and a larger plan for Idaho’s future. Idaho leaves thousands of high-paying jobs unfilled each year, amounting to tens of millions of dollars in lost salary because we lack an educated workforce. Seventy-eight thousand Idahoans go without health care (the “gap population”) when we could be leveraging our state dollars 9-to-1 to “close the gap.” Democrats consistently propose solutions to tap into that prosperity. The majority seems content with dysfunction. We need serious lawmakers who are willing to roll up their sleeves and make the hard decisions during the legislative session — not afterward in court. If the majority can’t keep its house in order, then maybe it’s time for a change.


Columns
OTHER VIEW
Other View: Voters acknowledge the awfulness of Trump

Jennifer Rubin

President Donald Trump managed to get elected without a popular-vote majority and without positive favorable ratings because he successfully stoked Clinton Derangement Syndrome. In retrospect, it’s stunning that he managed to convince voters that Hillary Clinton was the more corrupt, dishonest and unprincipled of the two. Without Clinton as a foil, however, voters have been able to focus more or less exclusively on Trump (although he periodically drags Clinton back into the conversation for no other reason than to argue that a Clinton administration would have been worse than the current circus, a proposition that becomes more far-fetched with each Trump controversy and misstep).

According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, voters are dismayed by what they see. For example, “58-37 percent [say] that he is not honest, compared to 61-34 percent April 4; 55-40 percent that he does not have good leadership skills, unchanged; 57-42 percent that he does not care about average Americans, little change; 63-33 percent that he is not level-headed, compared to 66-29 percent; 61-36 percent that he is a strong person, compared to 64-33 percent; 58-38 percent that he is intelligent, compared to 60-35 percent; 61-35 percent that he does not share their values, virtually unchanged.” The pollster concludes, “With only a slight bombing bump, President Donald Trump stays mired in miserable numbers. The first 100 days draw to a close with character flaws overwhelming his strongest traits, intelligence and strength as a person.”

The intensity of Trump’s critics (50 percent strongly disapprove, 28 percent strongly approve) is striking, as is his disapproval rating among nonwhite voters (67 percent say they strongly disapprove). Without older, male and white voters, his approval numbers would be atrocious. There is overwhelming disapproval of his performance among young people, women, college-educated voters and minority voters.

On individual issues, he gets the worst ratings on immigration (58 percent disapprove/39 percent approve), the environment (61 percent disapprove/31 percent approve) and foreign policy (56 percent disapprove/40 percent approve) in spite of his two best-received actions (striking Syria, dropping the mega-bomb in Afghanistan). Trump still gets relatively high marks from Republicans, but interestingly, he gets the least support on the environment — 15 to 20 points lower than he does on other issues. Perhaps even Republicans are squeamish about climate-change denial.

With no major legislative accomplishment, a failed travel ban and raging scandals over his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia and his family’s lax financial ethics, these numbers might not seem all that surprising. As my colleague Glenn Kessler finds, “It’s rather silly for any president to suggest that his first 100 days somehow topped Roosevelt’s achievement. Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Obama are credited with significant legislative achievements early in their first terms, but much of their success generally came after the first 100 days. Trump would be well advised to not make such a big deal about this because the available evidence shows that he in no way comes close to matching FDR’s record.”

Despite Trump’s insistence that his first 100 days have been a triumph, neither the facts nor public perception supports that interpretation.

The bigger problem for Trump and the GOP may be that this is the high-water mark for his “accomplishments.” Unless one thinks he will succeed on the second go-round on health care, come upon a tax reform plan after months of delay, devise coherent policies on Syria and North Korea to follow up on chest-thumping and come out of the Russia investigations smelling like a rose, there is reason to believe things will get worse, not better.


Editorial
featured
OUR VIEW
Our View: Airport remodel a milestone

First impressions matter, our parents told us. Comb your hair, tuck in your shirt, put on a smile and give a firm handshake.

So we should all be applauding the $4.3 million in upgrades to the Twin Falls airport. For a lot of visitors, the airport makes the first (and last) impression for what folks will think of Twin Falls.

“Twin Falls has grown up,” County Commissioner Don Hall said Wednesday at the dedication ceremony for the newly remodeled airport. “This is a huge part of our economic development.”

How?

SkyWest Airlines, the airport’s only carrier, said the upgrades have the potential to bring expanded services. Officials also hope the remodel increases the chances travelers will fly out of Twin rather than driving to Boise or Salt Lake City to catch flights.

The Transportation Safety Administration called the project “a milestone for a community like Twin Falls.”

The upgrades were designed to speed up security lines (which were already blazingly fast compared with the above-mentioned airports) and provide more comforts to travelers.

There’s now free wireless internet. The seating area is larger, illuminated by more natural light. There are also bathrooms once you get through security. And the security line has been repositioned to allow for better flow throughout the airport. And if you accidentally left that big bottle of shampoo in your bag and it needs to be searched, it won’t happen in clear view of everyone else in line. The remodel included a more private bag-search area.

“It’s going to be a considerable savings, definitely, convenience-wise, which will result in efficiency and save time,” said TSA Idaho Federal Security Director Andrew Coose.

The city and county co-own the airport and split the costs for the upgrades: just $179,000 total. The feds picked up the other 95 percent of the cost. That’s a heck of a deal for the local governments, who were able to make a small investment that could yield big dividends if more people choose the Twin Falls airport over other larger regional hubs.

Factor in gas, parking, travel time and a hotel room if you have to catch an early flight, and the Twin Falls airport starts to look a lot more attractive than those other airports, especially now with the upgrades that’ll make traveling out of Twin Falls even smoother.


Mailbag
Letter: Time for a recall

Time for a recall

When a city has a mayor and a city councilman that won’t condemn and support serious punishment for a gang of thugs that sexually assault a 5-year-old girl, they need to make some serious changes soon. Doesn’t make any difference what color or race the thugs are, they need to be dealt with, not excused. These punks have ruined many lives and the mayor and councilman supported a slap on the wrist. Time for a recall.

Dan Qualls

Jerome