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.