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Posts published in February 2010

About those jobs

In Oregon, the campaign against two tax measures on the ballot - which passed - was centered around the idea that those taxes were "job-killing." In Idaho, the very notion of a tax increase of any sort is way off the table, in large part because of that same assumption, that taxes imposed on people and businesses will kill private sector jobs. (There's probably a grudging acknowledgement that public sector jobs would be saved, but that appears to be a lesser factor.)

But consider this point from the latest Idaho Reports program from this weekend, reviewing the state of the budget-setting Idaho. The matter of jobs may not be quite so simple.

The subject was the state budget and jobs, as discussed by three members of the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Here's Democrat Wendy Jaquet:

"What bothers me as we lay people off because we don't have this revenue, or we think we don't have the revenue, then we have kind of a multiplier effect. I asked the director of the Department of Health & Welfare how many private sector jobs would be lost [under current budget proposals] because most of our [services] are done by private providers. And he estimated on the worst-case scenario, which is where we're headed, it would be about 8,000 private-sector jobs. So its like we're creating a downward spiral, and that's what I find really worrisome."

From * to politician

The Oregon gubernatorial candidacy of Chris Dudley has prompted Salem Statesman-Journal Executive Editor Bill Church to ask whether athletes can make good politicians.

Best reply, from Tim Pfau:

Do investment bankers make good politicians?
So Union organizers?
Do porn stars?
Do editors?
Do aluminum window salesmen or ministers, or teachers, or unemployed factory workers?

Goofy questions, aren't they?

Does Dudley? That's a better question and maybe what you meant to ask.

Not so far.

So far, he's just delivered canned, and remarkably empty speeches.

I have no more idea what his policy positions are now than I did when he played semi-pro basketball for the Blazers.

Jim Campbell

Jeff Kropf

Jim Campbell (left) and Buckskin Bill on the Salmon, 1980, shortly before Bill's death/Judy Lemmon

The river guide and travel business in Central Idaho's River of No Return-Frank Church Wilderness seems as though it has been around forever, but floating and guest ranch activity is actually fairly young as a major tourist business. It kicked into high gear in the 70s when a number of central players figured out how to make it work in a very effective way. With float permits in Hells Canyon, the Middle Fork, Main Salmon, Owyhee and Lochsa rivers, the Wild Rivers Idaho business that Jim Campbell created and developed was one of the handful of businesses that contributed to building float trips into a mainstay.

Campbell was a researcher at what is now Idaho National Laboratory in the 60s before the backcountry drew him in. With two of his work associates, he started river trips which grew into operations in river running and resort ranches, and those were among the central activities in turning the region into such a popular visiting location. With his love of the country and its history he gathered a group of premier river guides outfitter/ranchers who taught him the back country history. (Two of the people in that group were Johnny Carrey and Cort Conley, who went on to tell those stories in a series of books about that area.) Few guests departed the rivers or Shepp Ranch without an appreciation of those who originally settled that rugged, inaccessible area.

After selling Shepp Ranch, Jim moved across the river to the Polly Bemis property where he built what he'd planned as a retirement home - but retirement was not on his agenda, and he began the development that became the Polly Bemis Resort. He left the backcountry in the 90s, and spent time after that in Las Vegas and Phoenix before settling, in this decade, in Costa Rica. He died there this week.

Linda Watkins, who spent time with Campbell in the backcountry in the 70s and 80s, has a recollection.

It's hard to know where to start, or what to say about Jim Campell's death last Thursday. He's been a part of my life for over three decades (more than 2/3 of my life) - in some ways, more of a family member than most of my own blood relations. I think of his death as I did of my father's: Relief that he's finally free of the pain and frustration at growing old that he's lived with for the last several years. (more…)

Who lobbies

Idaho law says that lobbying generally means trying to influence the crafting of law or some other official action in the legislative or executive branch, and that in general, anyone who does is a lobbyist - even you or I, if we write a letter to a legislator expressing a point of view on an issue.

Not a big deal, though - nothing to worry about if you've not registered with the state as a lobbyist. The state has a number of exemptions from registration, and one of them is this: "Persons who do not receive any compensation for lobbying and persons whose compensation for lobbying does not exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250) in the aggregate during any calendar quarter, including persons who lobby on behalf of their employer or employers, and the lobbying activity represents less than the equivalent of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) of the employee’s time per calendar year quarter, based on an hourly proration of said employee’s compensation." Simplified, that means if you're not paid more than $250 to lobby, you don't have to register. (Sometimes you don't even if you are paid more.)

If you scan through the monthly reports of Keith Allred's lobbyist filings (like this one), then, you have to wonder: Why did he file at all? He was busy in the last few years at the legislature, trying to influence legislation (on behalf of his group the Common Interest), but he wasn't getting paid for it. He didn't have to file. Presumably, he filed because he felt like it; he remarked today, "I chose to do so in the interest of full disclosure."

He didn't, as it happens, file an annual report for 2009, as must-lobbyists have to do. That led to a press release from the Idaho Republican Party today: "Democratic Candidate for Governor Keith Allred missed the deadline to file his 2009 annual lobbyist report with the Secretary of State. Allred registered with the Secretary of State as a lobbyist in 2009 for The Common Interest.
According to Idaho Code, any lobbyist registered under Section 67-6617 is required to file an annual report with the Secretary of State’s Office. Failure to file a report could result in a penalty of up to fifty dollars a day, at this point according to statute Allred could be subject to hundreds of dollars in fines. The Secretary of State office’s confirmed earlier today that Allred missed the filing deadline."

Since he's never had to file at all, any fines would seem problematic. Allred, as the presumptive Democratic nominee for Idaho governor, is a logical target for shots from the Republican, but this particular blast seems ill-aimed.

Allred filed a report, post-deadline, on Friday, and "expressed regret" for the late filing. But why express even regret for filing late a report he didn't have to file at all?

A simple revision

Quite the knockdown drag-out in Washington Senate Ways and Means today: initiative organizer Tim Eyman and Senator Adam Kline, D-Seattle, blasting off at each other. And it wasn't personal: It was policy.

Eyman: "citizens are watching arrogant Democrats decide rules don't apply to them ... The taxpayers have to follow the law but this bill exempts you from it."

Kline: "I'd like you to talk about the other side ... the necessary expenditures that deal with people's lives that we don't have enough money to pay for."

Maybe most pertinent: "We have to deal with both sides of the equal sign."

(You can see the action via the TVW blog. Eyman comes on at about the 27-minute mark.)

Both, in fact, had a fact-based point to make. The object of the bill in question, Senate Bill 6843, calls for "Preserving essential public services by temporarily suspending the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and permanently modifying provisions of Initiative Measure No. 960 for improved efficiency and consistency with state budgeting." It modifies 960 all right - pretty heavily, by eliminating the requirement of a two-thirds legislative approval for a tax increase (which would be effectively nearly impossible in the current climate) through 2011, returning to simple majority, and some other changes as well.

Eyman seems to be convinced enough it will pass to propose a new measure, I-1053, to counter the bill that hasn't even passed yet: "The 2/3's requirement is the only thing saving struggling taxpayers and our fragile economy from recession-extending, job-killing tax hikes from Gregoire and the Democrats who control Olympia. It has saved taxpayers BILLIONS OF DOLLARS over the past two years and we need to keep its protections in place. Their arrogant effort to take away Initiative 960's policies - which have been approved by the voters 3 times and which have survived 2 court challenges - is the reason the 14 of us are sponsoring I-1053, the "Save The 2/3's Vote For Tax Increases Initiative."

Kline's point seems worthwhile too, though, and to the extent that the public is going to become involved in directly setting fiscal policy for the state, maybe this ought to be a rule to adopt:

If you're going to call for changes in the tax laws, then you have to account - in the initiative - for the spending on the other end. If you're calling for a tax cut, and that tax cut will have the effect of lowering revenue by (whatever amount - say $200 million), then you have to say specifically what cuts will be made on the other end.

If you're going to ask the public to make legislative decisions, then they should have to behave like legislators - balancing both sides of the books.

Wonder what Eyman would think about that?

Not the speed, but the prep

New Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is getting some blowback for his batch out of out-of-the-chute decisions, coming in the days after he took office. He told the Seattle Times on Monday, "I think we came out probably — we did come out pushing a little bit too hard, too fast."

Those have to do with his intent to end or downgrade about 200 city jobs, a bond issue for a Puget Sound seawall (without a heads-up to the city council), and things.

A thought: The rightness or wrongness has nothing to do with an accelerated schedule. The complaints McGinn is getting how are on the substance, not the speed.

What's needed in terms of time is just enough to do your homework first. That may be what McGinn didn't do - a rookie's failure to recognize that there may be factors or layers to a situation that weren't initially appreciated. He may be getting some of that education now.

Oregon school direction

Maurer

Ron Maurer

All three northwest states elect a superintendent of public instruction; Idaho's is partisan, Oregon's and Washington's nonpartisan. But that's often just a formality; often, voters have a pretty good idea of what they're getting on the partisan scale.

Oregon's superintendent, Susan Castillo, was appointed and later elected to the state Senate as a Democrat, and was an assistant Democratic floor leader in 1999 and 2001. She won election as superintendent in 2002 - defeating incumbent Stan Bunn, who had been a Republican state legislator - and 2006, with about two-thirds of the vote.

Today she appears to have a substantial challenger, state Representative Ron Maurer of Grants Pass - a Republican.

He has substantial education background in education (including a doctorate),but that doesn't seem to have been a top focus on his legislative work. His 2008 voter guide description contained these issue headings: "Southern Oregon Roots, Southern Oregon Values," "Oregon's Conservative Voice for Healthcare Reform," "Public Safety is a Top Priority," "Advocate for Seniors and the Disabled," "Defender of Property and Second Amendment Rights" - nothing related to schools.

But we should be hearing more before long.

Oregon answer, Idaho answer

Rocky Barker at the Idaho Statesman has posed a question at his blog:

"So Oregon's vote [passing two tax measures at the polls], coupled with Idaho's deep cuts in education, social services and all state government services, gives people on both sides of the issue a real chance to prove who is right. Will the state that raises taxes to protect schools and services do better economically than the state that keeps taxes low? Will Idaho place billboards on Oregon's Interstate 5 saying 'Come to the state of low taxes on the rich and corporations?' I heard some lobbyists say this might be a real opportunity."

Good question! The contrast is apt to be stark (it could be between Idaho and Washington too, depending on what happens the next few weeks in Olympia), so the comparison will have some legitimacy.

So far, the Oregonian has run a piece on how there's no indication of a business migration north of the Columbia to Vancouver. The guess here is that there's no significant business migration at all. But let's keep watch and see how that works out.