Campaigns: IACI sells out for $$$

by Judy Ferro     [Original (adapted version published 8/18/2014 by the Idaho Press-Tribune]    


            The ad wars have begun—spots both for and against gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff are running. 
            A corporate lobbying group’s ad accuses A.J. of being a liberal with (gasp) Democratic values.  To me that says he’s a pragmatist who cares about education and wage earners, but Republican spinners have put a lot of effort and money to making those terms derogatory.   
            Balukoff is a businessman.  He started his career as an accountant, then owned several health clubs, and now owns a chunk of The Grove in Boise. He could be described as an Eisenhower Republican; he prefers the term moderate
            Balukoff is also a 14-year veteran of the Boise School Board.  He believes in giving back to his community and wants every child to have the best education possible. 
            That ad really says that Idaho corporations fear Balukoff can’t be bought.  Check out these points.
            Keeping Idaho’s public lands in Federal hands. Yup, A.J. sides with those who like to camp, hunt, and fish in the great outdoors over those who want to see mining and water rights sold off. 
            Bringing change to Idaho.  Heaven forbid Idaho give up its near-bottom rankings in kids going to college, in school funding, in family income, and in domestic product growth.
            Supporting higher taxes.  A.J. backed every bond and levy requested by the Boise school board—as did a majority of the Boise voters.  Something had to be done after the Republican legislature made draconian cuts in school funding.
            Supporting Obamacare (also known as the Affordable Care Act). Republicans have spent a lot of money—including $75 million of our tax money (CBS estimate) on making Obamacare a dirty word.  That hasn’t deterred thousands of Idahoans from adding adult children to their policies or 76,000 Idaho residents (nearly double the expected number) from signing up through Idaho’s insurance exchange.
            That last accusation is pure politics.  You see, the ad’s sponsor, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, has lobbied hard to bring the final piece of Obamacare—expansion and reform of Medicaid—to Idaho.  According to IACI President Alex LaBeau,It’s pretty clear from the information and the numbers that Medicaid expansion would save industry a lot of money,” somewhere around $12 to $18 million a year. (Right Medicine for Idaho, a coalition of over 50 lobbying groups, estimated reforming Medicaid would also save Idaho taxpayers $85 million a year.)
            Well, Gov. Otter and Republican legislators regarded backing more Obamacare as political suicide, so no action was taken. 
            So why is IACI spending thousands backing Otter?
            Because Otter supports IACI on an issue that the organization chose not to mention—repeal of taxes on business equipment.  By and large, the taxes benefit cities and counties around the state.  Now Republicans control the budgets of a majority of Idaho’s cities and counties, and enough legislators listened to those officials that the tax has not been repealed in its entirety.
            IACI wants that to change.
            Now 90 percent of Idaho businesses do not pay this tax.  As far as I know, agricultural and medical enterprises have always been exempt.  A 2013 statute exempts all property with an acquisition price under $3,000 and the first $100,000 a business owns IN EACH COUNTY.
                In other words, only the major players have to pay—and those players make up the IACI board.  They trust Otter to go along with tax breaks for the very rich.  They want him re-elected.  

Politics: Republican primaries

by Judy Ferro

Gotta love Idaho politics. Primaries are behind us, and now Republican factions are arguing over who won.

Butch Otter can claim victory because he actually won the Republican nomination for governor.

But Russ Fulcher is also claiming victory for his anti-Obamacare, anti-Feds, anti-public schools faction.   Getting 46% of the vote against an incumbent in a state-wide race proves that they are gaining strength. Why, he even won in Ada and Canyon counties.

A look at other races, however, leave that claim in doubt. To start with, the Fulcher-faction didn’t win a legislative race against an incumbent in either Ada or Canyon. Statewide, six Republican legislators were defeated, three losing to challengers on the right and three to challengers from the center.

So Democrats look at Fulcher’s near-victory and suspect there is a growing anybody-but-Butch sentiment in the counties where Otter is most at home. This is a governor, after all, who has given us one expensive scandal after another—the broadband contract the Feds believe is illegal, the fraud and ill-run prisons with Corrections Corporation of America, the favorable tax rates reserved for cronies, and the wrongful termination lawsuit in the Transportation Department among others.

This could mean victory in November for Democrat A.J. Balukoff. A.J. has a stronger business history. He started out a pauper and made big bucks without marrying anyone’s daughter. Moreover, he’s served 14 years on the Boise School Board and opposed the Luna Laws. And it shouldn’t hurt that he graduated from BYU-Idaho.   He hasn’t won—or entered—any tight jeans contests and he won’t have that R by his name, but he would make the better Governor.

Unfortunately, the Fulcher-faction did win one statewide race—Lawerence Denney got 36% of the vote to win the four-way race for Republican nominee for Secretary of State. Remember Denney? As majority leader, he kicked out committee chairs who dared to oppose him on anything. He also used donations from fellow Republican legislators to fund their ultra-right opponents. And wasn’t he a major force behind the closed Republican primary?

So the question is did Denny win because his name was the most familiar or do voters really want to see his hard-core partisanship governing our state elections?

Are Idahoans so determined to vote for a Republican that they will risk getting Florida-style elections with purges of the registration rolls, restricted early voting and long waiting lines in precincts that don’t vote right?

The Democrat alternative is a relative unknown—Boise businesswoman and one-term Representative Holli Woodings. But she shares outgoing Secretary Ben Ysursa’s serious commitment to honest elections. Hopefully, that’s what Idahoans want.

The Democrats have other strong contenders for statewide races. Boise lawyer Nels Mitchell would work harder and smarter than Senator “Vote-no” Risch. Retired teacher and seven-term legislator Shirley Ringo has twice the smarts and twice the personality of Representative Labrador. Democrat Jana Jones worked in the Department of Education under Republicans Jerry Evans and Anne Fox as well as Democrat Marilyn Howard. Her opponent is relatively unknown even among Republicans. And Twin Falls CPA Deborah Silver would actually understand what is happening in the Treasurer’s office.

No, I’m not willing to admit that a primary closed to two-thirds of Canyon County voters has decided the statewide races. People are becoming aware that one-party rule has given us corruption and cronyism as well as a poor-paying jobs and a stagnant economy. Republicans are increasingly focused on the internal fight among factions rather than the well-being of Idaho.

There will always be voters who blindly vote the R by the name. Concerned citizens, however, will be voting for some Democrats this fall.