If there is anything you can count on in Idaho politics, it’s the difference between Republicans and Democrats on taxes and tax cuts. Democrats have lost power in Idaho’s Legislature over the past two decades largely because voters usually support lower tax rates and tax cuts. That’s why Republicans today hold over 80 percent of the state’s legislative seats.

Democrats advance muddled theories on why taxes should stay the same or go higher. They focus on needs which they see as essential government services, but these needs are often really just “wants” dressed up and painted nicely.

Unfortunately, the costs to you as a taxpayer for such generosities are rarely addressed. Costs are passed on in many forms such as school bond levies, business fees, and expanded tax grabs through new taxing districts, reduced exemptions, etc.

Here’s a basic principle which voters should keep in mind: When you vote Idaho Republican, you are voting for fiscal responsibility in government, budget control, prudence in spending, for leaving more money in your own pockets, and for making sure we have rainy day funds sufficient to handle inevitable downturns.

That’s why we Republican legislators are proud to run on a platform of lowering taxes where we can, keeping government growth prudent, being cautious about debt. These are principles you follow in your personal and business finances; why should you want your government to do any differently?

In looking at states under Democrat leadership — Illinois, California, New York — you’ll find they struggle to balance their budgets, attract business and control runaway benefits, but they are quick to raise taxes. Later, their leaders fret as their populations slip and people leave for better prospects elsewhere. Idaho is a “receiving” state of many of these “escapees.”

A recent Bloomberg report gave Idaho top-of-the-list rankings among states in income growth, population growth, employment gains, low debt and other common measures. Idaho’s economy under Republican leadership and principles is indeed cooking. For the budget year ending June 30, Idaho revenues totaled $3.448 billion, up 8.3 percent from 2016, with a year-ending balance of more than $93 million. Revenues for 2016 were up 4.2 percent from 2015, up 8.6 percent from 2014 and in four years, revenue is up over 21 percent — almost $400 million. This sustained revenue growth should compel us this year to cut taxes substantially.

I serve on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee where we voted last winter to cut income tax rates for both individuals and businesses. Democrats voted against these tax cuts, both in committee and on the floor. This coming session, we’re likely to see several proposals to reduce taxes, tax rates and eliminate taxes entirely on such items as groceries. We hope to develop bills that are authentic, fair and in the best interest of Idahoans. You can count on Republicans, including me, to support such proposals.

Sure, tax policy needs tweaking from time to time, but I’m proud to try to reduce tax burdens wherever I can. It’s that simple. Keep your money or give it to government to give to others. It’s your choice at the voting booth.

If Democrats want to push for more taxes, increased government spending on non-essential “want” programs, and for a deeper reach into your pockets, let ‘em do so. That’s a challenge I and other Republicans will take every time.

Rep. Stephen Hartgen represents Twin Falls in District 24 of the Idaho Legislature.


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