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Columns
Malloy: House chairman not friendly to Chamber agenda

Early in his political career, Rep. Vito Barbieri of Dalton Gardens learned an important lesson about public speaking — specifically, knowing his audience before he picked a topic.

“I was asked to speak to a chamber of commerce event … and it struck me right in the face,” said Barbieri, who is in his fourth term. “I went there saying that business can no longer expect government to protect their industries … and they didn’t like that at all.”

That was the beginning of his frosty relationship with the local chamber; it hasn’t gotten better. Barbieri chairs the House Business Committee, which on the surface seems to be compatible with advocates, such as the Idaho Chamber Alliance. But Barbieri sees a disconnect between what chambers want and what’s politically possible.

“They are not my friends,” he says.

Other legislators have more of an open ear to the chambers. Rep. Caroline Troy of Genesee, who also is a member of the House Business Committee, has a weekly telephone conference with the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, where she gives reports on legislative business.

“Most chambers have government relations committees, and I make it a point to reach out to them,” she says.

One of the big social functions during the first week of a legislative session is a luncheon sponsored by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. That’s where the chamber passes around its legislative agenda, which is largely consistent with other chambers throughout the state. The agenda includes continued support for improving education, support for transportation funding and finding an Idaho health-insurance solution. One local issue is support for $10 million from the Permanent Building fund for the Center for Materials Science Building at Boise State University.

The chamber also asks for lowering Idaho’s 7.4 percent corporate tax rate and easing the burden of the personal property tax on business equipment. There’s movement on those issues in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. House Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star has introduced legislation to lower the corporate tax rate to 7.2 percent and Rep. Janet Trujillo is calling for raising the exemption on the personal property tax.

Bill Connors, the president and CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber, says the agenda fits well with the business community. Idaho’s projected revenue surplus lends an opportunity for the Legislature to reduce the corporate tax rate, which is among the highest in the nation and puts the Gem state at a competitive disadvantage with other states in attracting new businesses.

Lowering taxes, while calling for spending increases in other areas, might seem contradictory. But as Connors sees it, “There’s room in the budget for both.” The chamber has favored tax increases for roads and local-option taxing authority, which legislators have opposed.

Troy and Barbieri have sharply different reactions to the chamber’s agenda.

“These are the kinds of issues that chambers should be talking about,” Troy said. “I’m especially happy that support for transportation is on the list. In District 5, just about everything we do is exported or imported. We import our students and export our timber and agriculture products. We can’t do it without good roads, and there are a lot of crappy roads in the state.”

Barbieri rolls his eyes when looking at the chamber’s agenda. “Where are we going to get the money for the materials science building? Where are we going to get more money for transportation?”

As with other legislators, he’s adamantly opposed to local-option taxation because of the lack of voter participation and the creation of an uneven tax structure. Local options have been nonstarters in the Legislature.

As for the overall agenda, he says, “I go through this list and I don’t see anything that is probusiness. I don’t see anything that helps the bait shop, the car-repair shop or the pawn shop. All I see is big-government stuff.”

In Troy’s view, “I appreciate the perspectives the chambers bring to the business community. The chambers are not comprised of big corporations. They are the mom-and-pop stores on main streets, and I pay attention to them.”

But with Barbieri in charge of the business panel, chamber-friendly legislation will have to be taken up elsewhere.


Columns
OTHER VIEW
Other View: Don't let 'America First' mean America alone

The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:

On his first official foreign trip, Secretary of Defense James Mattis is going to the continent that presents the White House with one of its most immediate and one of its most long-term challenges. North Korea is racing to develop a working nuclear-tipped ICBM, while China is growing as a regional hegemon and global rival.

Both issues will require close cooperation with the U.S.’s longstanding allies in Japan and South Korea, where Mattis will be visiting. President Donald Trump’s main response, however, has been to vaguely threaten China and promise to invest additional billions to expand the U.S. military. Neither is an adequate response.

No matter how much Trump tweets, China isn’t going to press sanctions that might fatally undermine the regime in Pyongyang and result in a unified, U.S.-allied Korea on its doorstep. Nor are Chinese leaders going to cave in to trade threats or negotiate over Taiwan. Meanwhile, it’ll take years to build all the new submarines and battleships Trump is promising. And in any case, while U.S. allies favor a stout American presence in the region, they have no appetite for military action.

The most effective way to strengthen the U.S. position in Asia is by doing exactly what Mattis is doing: cultivating and reassuring allies. It’s encouraging that he reportedly doesn’t plan to question the contributions that South Korea and Japan make to support U.S. troops in their countries, as Trump has done repeatedly. Collaboration among all three allies is key: Any effort to contain North Korea will be much more effective if they can coordinate their missile-defense networks and present a unified front to Pyongyang.

Mattis’s trip should be only the first of many. It will be critical for diplomats, Cabinet members and Trump himself to reassure Asian allies and rally them to a coherent policy. The U.S. will need to work harder to encourage greater military cooperation in the region. And Trump can (somewhat) mitigate his ill-considered decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership by pressing bilateral trade deals, in particular with Japan.

Trump claims to have the same priorities abroad as he does at home: to make the U.S. stronger and safer. But he won’t succeed — especially not in Asia — if “America First” means, as it once did, America alone.


Editorial
featured
Our View: City improvements happening despite Legislature’s handcuffs

Listen to Twin Falls City Manager Travis Rothweiler talk about police wages, and he’ll speak in almost philosophical terms. A good police force is fundamental to reducing crime, and low crime is a key to economic development.

Same with city amenities like a canyon rim trail system. Our regional economy is creating jobs faster than companies can fill them. To keep the economy booming, we need more workers. That means luring people from outside the area to the Magic Valley. And that requires creating a city where people want to live. A trail system is an accoutrement that fosters economic growth.

The list goes on: the multi-million-dollar investment in remaking downtown, a new state-of-the-art police headquarters, infrastructure to accommodate a growing city, a downtown City Hall that will help the bureaucracy be more responsive and efficient (and with the added bonus of an outdoor space for public events). These projects are more than the sum of their parts — they’re all part of a larger vision to enhance the city and improve residents’ quality of life.

These are smart investments, and they’re happening despite the Legislature’s insistence in limiting local control over taxes.

So kudos to the city for its bold moves to remake Twin Falls into a thriving city where folks want to work and play, raise families or retire. On Monday, the City Council approved a plan to boost wages for street cops. As we’ve reported, too many officers are being poached by Treasure Valley agencies after Twin Falls taxpayers have footed the bill for their training. A wage boost will help keep the best officers here in Twin Falls, and, as Rothweiler argues, lead to lower crime rates and more economic development.

The city is also set to spend $800,000 to connect another segment of the canyon rim trail, looping the trail from Eastland Drive to the Evel Knievel jump site. The Magic Valley Trail Enhancement Committee has raised nearly $600,000 to help with the project.

Make no mistake: These aren’t frivolous spending sprees. Remarkably, the city has been able to fund these projects without significant increases in taxes or cuts to city services.

Still, we can’t help but wonder what else could be if the city had more control over raising revenues. We’re talking about local-option sales taxes — where cities would be allowed to ask voters for slight and temporary increases to sales taxes to raise money for earmarked projects. Under current law, the Legislature gives this privilege only to a handful of resort communities. Twin Falls isn’t one of them.

City improvements would happen a heck of a lot faster if local voters had more local control when it comes to taxing. Chances are, that trail expansion would have been completed years ago. And the city might not be struggling to pay its cops and firefighters a competitive wage. Perhaps we’d have an event center featuring world-class entertainment and recreation opportunities. The improvements to Canyon Springs Road would have come years ago.

Instead, the city is scraping together money a nickel at a time, and improvements take a generation to complete. It’s a miracle Twin Falls is doing so well considering the constraints the Legislature have bound so tightly on Idaho cities.


Mailbag
Letter: Idaho delegation must stand up for what's right

Idaho delegation must stand up for what’s right

Dear Sen. Crapo, Sen. Risch, Congressman Simpson and Gov. Otter:

These times, and specifically President Trump’s executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” are a test of character. This order is based purely on fear and paranoia, rather than logic and sound facts. It will eventually be proven illegal and unconstitutional. That is only a matter of time. History will judge those who supported this measure and those who were ambivalent or silently stood by while it unfolded.

Permanent legal residents initially denied entry into the United States? Individuals with dual citizenship denied entry into the country? Blanket restrictions based on a person’s nationality? Is this really what you want to stand for? You may be worried about losing your seat in office, but you should be worried about losing your moral compass. Do not facilitate the spread of fear and paranoia and measures that stem from them. Base your decision on facts and what those with the wisdom and expertise from years of experience in the trenches fighting terrorism will tell you is effective.

My intention with this letter is not to compel feelings of shame or guilt. Rather, my hope is that this message inspires you to look at your own heart and conscience, at what you believe in and want to stand for, rather than what panders to some political agenda.

Currently, I’m asked every day to recite and stand for the pledge. I find that very difficult to do, because at this time the words “liberty and justice for all” ring hollow.

Again, President Trump’s executive order named above is a test of character. If you remain silent or agree with the order, you will have failed. Choose wisely.

Kathryn Hipsher, Bellevue