Three extra weeks to stop bad bills

Is anyone else fantasizing about the legislature simply calling it quits for the year?  

Members have already passed 144 bills, and most of the 200 bills still alive one week before their planned adjournment would have died anyway.    

It can’t happen of course. There are over 20 appropriations bills to be passed.  And the House really needs to accept the $6 million federal grant for reading readiness programs for preschoolers. (Personal note–those who think 4-year-olds can be indoctrinated need to spend more time with one.)

But for every bill that should be passed, there’s another one that could harm Idaho. Some are petty, like requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature to change the name of Cleveland Blvd. to Caldwell Blvd. or forbidding a school board to mention in a ballot description whether It’s asking more or less money than in the previous year. 

But some bills could cause great harm. 

SB1110 would interfere with voters’ rights under the Idaho Constitution by making Idaho’s requirements for getting an initiative or referendum impossible without major outside funding.  

And why? The only initiative or referendum passed here in the past eight years was Medicare Expansion, which has not only saved lives, but saved the state millions of dollars during this pandemic. 

If legislators cared about Idahoans, they would be making initiatives easier, not more difficult.    

And another bill will ensure that Idaho can’t increase spending on education, infrastructure, or services for years. HB 332 was introduced late and passed by the House two days later on a straight party line. Some call it Idaho’s biggest tax cut ever. It will cost $780 million–$390 million in income tax cuts and a second $390 million cut in Federal COVID relief funds. For every dollar going to an Idahoan, another will go out-of-state.   

And HB 322 is a good example why the Feds are forbidding using their money for income tax cuts–such cuts don’t get money circulating locally and quickly.  Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, calculates that, after year one, a family of four with $25,000 in income would get $13 from the tax cut and one with $1 million in income would get over $10,000. Much of the latter would go into savings.  

HB 322 would cut Income tax rates by 0.125% for the lowest bracket and up to 0.425% for the highest. In addition, the first year each Idahoan would receive a one-time payment of $50 or 9% of state taxes paid in 2019, whichever is higher.  

Reminder–only seven states have lower tax rates than Idaho. Forty-nine states spend more on education. 

A majority of our legislature seems determined to underfund public schools. During the past five years we Idahoans have taxed ourselves over $2 billion in bonds and levies to subsidize the state funding for schools–and some legislators want to stop that. Now, figuring they have an extra $780 million, they’re ready to send half of it back to the federal government? 

Our legislators apparently don’t understand that employers planning to pay good wages seek out areas with schools that employees will want for their kids.  Idaho’s chosen instead to advertise its low taxes and cheap wages. And today, Idaho still has both the worst funded schools and the most workers making minimum wage.  

We’ve got three weeks to tell legislators that we want schools funded well enough that districts don’t have to add to our property taxes. We should also ask for an increase in the homeowners’ exemption so inflated housing prices don’t force people out of their homes. 

And do remind them that they represent us.