by Judy Ferro
Idahoans have some things to be happy about right now.
Recent estimates are that the Idaho government will have a $64.5 million budget surplus by the July 1 end of the current fiscal year. Legislators gambled on a stronger Idaho economy when they appropriated funds, and the earliest returns indicate they were right. August’s revenues weren’t as strong as July’s, yet they still exceeded forecasts in every taxing category. In addition, Idaho Health and Welfare reverted $19.1 million back to the general fund, most from unspent Medicaid funds.
With our state’s schools, colleges, and infrastructure all needing further investment, a healthy surplus is great news. (And Idaho attained this healthy economic growth after choosing to increase spending, especially in education, rather than lowering taxes. Kansas, please take note.)
On top of that, Idahoans who own stock got good news when the Fed decided not to raise interest rates. All three indexes showed immediate increases of 1%, with NASDAQ setting a new record.
Moreover, Nampans can be happy that renovations for the former library are back on track with Mussell Construction promising venues similar to Bistro 29.
And Caldwellites, already happy about a fun and well-attended Indian Creek Festival, can now celebrate being finalists for the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation’s Healthy Community Grant. Safer pedestrian pathways may not be a “sexy” proposal, but safe paths would give parents one less thing to worry about and increase the number of people walking. Moreover, it’s a concrete proposal; several communities’ applications sound like they aren’t going to start planning until they have the money. (Support Caldwell by voting before Sept. 30 at www.highfiveidaho.org/vote.)
Not all the news is good though. In an effort to rid the state of investments in commercial property, the state Land Board is planning to auction nine properties. I don’t understand the drive to divest; I’ve been taught that diverse investments protect from a downturn in a segment of the economy. It’s not like nine properties would give the state a monopoly of available commercial property.
Administrative Director Bob Geddes pointed out a serious problem with these particular sales. Five properties are near the state Capitol. If Idaho’s population continues to grow, chances are the state will end up repurchasing some of them—at higher prices—in the not-so-distant future.
Another case where Republican dogma contradicts common sense.
And the past weeks have not been good for those who support, or even those who fear, a Trump presidency. Reports of an illegal campaign contribution by the Trump Foundation have been followed by articles detailing the Foundation’s use of over $250 million of other donors’ money to settle legal disputes for Trump.
Newsweek published what it could learn about Trump’s entanglements with overseas governments including significant ties with Russia. As a result, over 50 foreign affairs experts signed a letter stating “our policies must be motivated exclusively by what is in America’s best interest, not by the financial interests of our president.”
And 375 scientists, including 30 Nobel laureates, declared Trump’s plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate agreement a danger to us all.
Notably, the New York Times turned on Trump pointing out he’d given speeches the same day first retracting, then promising, a tax cut for small businesses. Then, in an article about various Trump’s “birther” claims, said, “[Trump] has exhausted an army of fact-checkers with his mischaracterizations, exaggerations and fabrications. But this lie was different from the start, an insidious, calculated calumny…”
Life continues to be better than we fear and worse than we hope.