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Yes, in my backyard

Former Idaho Senator James McClure, in talking about tax policy, often repeated a line – “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree” – to convey that most people tend to point toward someone else (preferably distant and invisible) when comes time to impose tax burdens. There’s a corollary to that: Substitute “cut” for “tax,” and even many anti-taxers will fit in.

Consider Parma.

Parma, Idaho, is in the western part of Canyon County, one of the most philosophically conservative parts of a conservative county. Taxes do not have a lot of fans here; neither does “big government.” You can see it in the yard and other signage, and in the votes for public officials and ballot issues.

Earlier this year, Idaho Power Company – a private investor-owned utility – was seeking to run a stretch of a planned 300-mile power line close by Parma, close enough to concern a number of local residents. Soon enough, government got involved – starting with the mayor, Margaret Watson, and soon a whole array others from the county commission to state leaders to federal agencies, were roped into the fray. Eventually, in April, Idaho Power backed away from the Parma-area run. All of which government regulation of business, to all appearances, was highly popular in Parma.

The next piece of big Parma news this year grew out of the state’s revenue shortfall and budget cuts: Announcement that a University of Idaho research laboratory, employing 16 people, would be closed. The center has been around a long time, since 1925, and has long been integrated with agriculture in the area – with “production, storage, and related problems of vegetables, forages, cereals, hop, mint, fruit and seed crops,” which is very much what local farming is about.

This too led to a lot of concern in Parma, and an outcry. Its elected officials (and beyond – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter is only one of many key Idaho leaders with Canyon background) put on the heat. This week, with the explanation that incoming University of Idaho President Duane Nellis hadn’t been involved with the earlier decision, the decision was pulled back for further review. (That doesn’t mean it necessarily will be reversed.)

Western Canyon County is one of the strongest anti-government spending parts of Idaho, and its legislators very much track along those lines. Generally, they certainly were not pushing for larger budgets for the universities, and could usually be counted on to call for reductions in government.

When will the pieces – far more related than many of these people seem willing to accept – come together?

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