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INSIDE POLITICS
Inside Politics: Déjà vu all over again

To say watching Idaho’s 2017 legislative session feels like déjà vu may be nicer than saying I told you so. But the raw truth is: I told you so. (Re-read my recent column “Futile Feudalism.”)

What’s the Idaho GOP’s top 2017 legislative priority? — Tinkle down economics! Cut income taxes $52 million! That’s their amazing (if gallingly familiar and repeatedly discredited) plan for revving our economy and magically increasing revenues. Lead to gold! Perpetual motion! Or as former GOP president Bush called it, voodoo economics.

Rep. Moyle’s, R-Star, bill awards an average annual cut of $1,562 to the top 1 percent income category. Contrastingly, middle-class families will pocket 62 cents per week — maybe enough for a New Year’s matinee movie for four and a small popcorn, if they save all year.

Meanwhile, Gov. Otter’s GOP Legislature cites the recuperating treasury as their excuse for shortchanging the goals of his task force on education.

Ah, but corporate taxes will plummet from 7.4 percent to 7.2 percent. Did you feel dizzy contemplating that precipitous drop? Can anyone doubt that every major American industry will relocate to Idaho with that radical decline? I do.

For starters, it’s estimated 80 percent of the corporate benefit will go to out-of-state businesses. Thanks for helping our competing states, GOP!

As the aforementioned column details, Idaho is already and has for years been at or near the bottom of overall taxation and labor costs regionally and nationally. This cut will do nothing positive for Idaho’s economy. In fact, by ignoring and further delaying urgent improvements in our education system, public services, infrastructure, health care, etc., this threadbare and disingenuous tapestry of fantasy-financing will diminish Idaho’s attractiveness to sought-after industries. Desirable businesses offering decent working conditions and livable wages to Idahoans want locations with good schools, health care, clean environments and public services far more than a lousy 0.2 percent corporate tax edge. The $52 million revenue loss will also worsen the unacknowledged GOP-caused middle-class property tax spiral via supplemental school levies.

Idaho’s GOP-dominated Legislature has played bait-and-switch with the budget for decades. When revenues shrink during tough economic times, the GOP cuts back government to balance budgets. They target spending that perpetually gives Republicans philosophical heartburn. It typically includes all that pesky environmental stuff, those lefty unionized teachers, the socialist union-inspired workplace protection and fair wage oversight, and all sorts of nanny-state regulation enforcement.

The bait is budget cutting under the banner of fiscal responsibility. The switch occurs when the economy rights itself and revenues rebound. Now, rather than using the painlessly healthy revenues of the prosperous years to restore government function, improve infrastructure, invest in education, facilitate health care or mend social service inadequacies, Republicans play the smaller-government card to hold or further shrink taxes. On either side of the play, middle-class working families are tossed a few pennies of direct income-tax savings while one-percenters get bundles of greenbacks. Furthermore, working families are hit by stealth taxes and fees that take disproportionately more of their paychecks compared with high income earners.

Perhaps I’m being unfair. My characterization of the GOP Legislature overlooks their nimble action on several issues. Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, is pushing legislation to protect Idahoans against the never present threat of Sharia law. Rep. Heather Scott and Speaker Bedke energetically explored decorum boundaries without even considering any of Scott’s more notorious mischief. Sen. Dan Foreman, R- Moscow, is hyperventilating at the chance to make abortion first-degree murder for mothers and physicians. It isn’t clear whether biological fathers will bear any responsibility or if the bill will facilitate access to birth control to prevent unwanted conception, or provide financial aid to indigents for the 18 years it takes to raise unwanted children. Another GOP bill wants Idaho to replicate Arizona Sheriff Arpaio’s much discredited police procedures regarding illegal immigrants (pronounced: racial profiling).

The Legislature seems disinclined to address the most pressing issues affecting working families in Idaho. There’s no word on where Gov. Otter’s panel on workforce training will find the cash to prepare the 138,000 new workers the state estimates will soon be needed. No word on how Idaho will fund health care, something BSU polling indicates tops Idahoan’s list of concerns, as the GOP gleefully dismantles the Affordable Care Act. Idahoans say that in addition to education and health care they feel we’re overdue to accomplish our $260 million backlog of transportation and infrastructure maintenance.

Reps. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, and Sally Toone, D-Gooding, with the entire Democratic caucus, offered legislation to forgive student loans for rural teachers to help overcome Idaho’s serious shortage. Since that’s a good idea offered by Democrats, I’m not making any bets. It would have to be paid for, so the GOP would have to deprioritize their pet tax cut.

Maybe Idaho could afford more necessities if we quit paying Go. Otter $4,500 per month for living in his own house. We might quit pandering to the alt-right by passing unconstitutional laws that cost millions to have struck down in court. A courageous Legislature would eliminate ineffective and unjustly preferential sales tax exemptions, plus strike down unwarranted full-year pension credits to politicians appointed to short stints in non-elected jobs.

But it’s Idaho after all, and elephants can’t change their stripes. So, don’t hold your breath.


Mailbag
Letter: No sales tax on groceries

No sales tax

on groceries

This letter is to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and lawmakers in the House and Senate.

We learned our state of Idaho is sitting on a surplus. We would like to see the elimination of sales tax on groceries.

In 2016 there were states which didn’t collect sales tax on groceries and four states who tax partially on selected grocery items; the rest of the states tax groceries, including the state of Idaho.

A 6 percent sales tax on groceries squeezes out from poor people’s money. Paying back grocery money credit to individuals at tax time is a time-consuming extra service effort.

Let us see no sales tax on groceries in the state of Idaho.

Kim Belliston

Rupert


Columns
COMMUNITY COLUMNIST
Brugger: Welcome the stranger: Immigrants and immigration

I always want to own my current beliefs, so I will state that I support refugees and the idea of accepting immigrants into the United States. However, I also can see that the process of that acceptance is not simple. I want to discuss some of the complexities.

I know many people who carry around a generalized fear that I must admit I don’t share. I am rarely concerned enough to even lock my car. Others are genuinely always aware that bad things happen and could happen to them. I can’t, in good conscious, say that they are wrong. I strongly believe it is the responsibility of government to act to keep us safe. I may take it for granted while others are warier of the government’s success.

When I posted the Old Testament quote about welcoming the stranger on Facebook, a good friend replied (I paraphrase) “but what if that stranger will do us harm?” Good question. My answer is that most strangers won’t. In fact, there was a practical reason for that injunction made so long ago. If strangers feel unwelcome or afraid for their life, they are more likely to act aggressively against their host. One way to be safe is to be kind.

Even if I find the result abhorrent, I can understand why young people whose parents were immigrants could begin to resent that the older generation has been held back, probably because of lack of English or professional certification, from living the same quality of life they did in the home country. If that resentment is honed by bullying or employment and housing discrimination, they look to the internet and find the propaganda that the West is evil and must be defeated. A terrorist is born! Life is safer when you welcome the stranger.

The immigration process in this country is no longer beneficial to immigrants or to employers or to families trying to unite. It does need to be re-thought and modernized. Progress on that front has been nil because it has been mired in the demonizing of the illegal immigrant and the refugee.

I have been told by law enforcement officials that they have been told to ignore most illegals picked up on the highways because the detention facilities were overcrowded. By the way, in northern Idaho, illegals are often from Canada! This is an example of why deportation law must be streamlined while still allowing for some due process.

Efforts must also be made to issue visas without unnecessary delay and to make a clear path for temporary work visas and the ability to convert them into green cards when appropriate. Mexico is fighting drugs, but they could also be incentivized to arrest human smugglers. The United States could act against employers of illegals. If they don’t arrest and deport the workers at the same time, the exploited workers might turn them in.

Refugees are not precisely immigrants. They are fleeing violence targeted at them. Current alarm to the contrary, in 2011, after individuals intending terrorism slipped in, processing of refugees was refined and made more difficult for the refugee. By requiring multiple in-person interviews, inconsistent answers were investigated and backgrounds were checked digitally and with human intelligence. These strangers are safer than some citizens. They deserve our most hearty welcome to the safety of our tent.

Please let’s get beyond attacks on each other’s personal beliefs and just find solutions that benefit employers, families and public safety. Let us remember that we are dealing with the lives of other humans. We all become strangers in new circumstances, and we all want to feel welcome.