Writings and observations

house
At the Idaho House; lunch approaches/Randy Stapilus

There is a fee of $10 charged to some people convicted of crimes in Idaho, which is directed toward the law enforcement system. House Bill 26, which was up on the House floor late Tuesday morning, proposed to raise that amount (paid by lawbreakers) by $1.50, the added amounted to be used for law enforcement training. Carried by a Republican, the bill drew support on the floor and sounded routine and uncontroversial.

It failed, on a 31-34 vote – a vote which seems emblematic of where the Idaho legislature possibly, and the Idaho House likely, stands on the matter of taxes, fees and budgets: This is a session for cutting, period. Cutting, slicing, slashing. Anything, however minor and however appealing, that adds income in any way, is verboten. Anyt other response could send a message that revenue raisers might be considered, and what looks like a majority in the House doesn’t want that anywhere near the table.

That’s the thread linking HB 26 with several bigger measures in the last couple of week – a cigarette tax bill and an interstate sales tax bill – which were killed off (at least for now) by leadership in the House. Not that this is necessarily a dictate from House Republican leadership; a lot of the House Republican caucus clearly feels the same way.

The big public turnout for two budget committee hearings, on education and on health and welfare issues, undoubtedly had some impact on legislators, and may have given some program advocates encouragement that their side of the picture will be heard. But as HB 26 suggests, don’t count on it. At least not yet, and maybe not this session.

If the budget and tax picture aren’t largely slam dunked by early April (and opinions are mixed about whether they will be), there could be some re-thinking. But the mod right now is: Cut, cut and cut.

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