Archive for August, 2012

Aug 08 2012

Fiscally irresponsible, again

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

There they stand in a photo sent to the state media – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and members of The Idaho State Lottery Commission proudly holding a large mock check for $41.5 million made out to the state. Governor Otter is clearly pleased with the yield from a regressive tax policy that relies substantially on the hopes of participants to hit the big one.

It is, however, another iteration of a myth that Idaho Republicans are the anti-tax increase, fiscally responsible party. In reality, the Governor peddles a bill of goods that relies on shell games and fiscal chicanery. He is betting most voters most of the time won’t see through the gimmicks which underfund education and keep kicking the day of reckoning down the road. He is probably correct, unfortunately.

All these anti-tax Republicans, who have taken the Grover Norquist pledge, for some reason exempt gaming from their list of taxes because an individual willingly pays this “tax,” which happens also to be a “sin tax.”

Taxpayers though are supposed to be happy that $17 million of that $41 million take will go to support the constitutional mandate to fund properly public education as if that will offset years of overall reductions in state support for public and higher education. But that is an integral part of the myth-making and shell games the Governor plays.

One has to concede the fiscal chicanery Republicans perpetrate gets lost in a sea of smoke and mirrors because it is complex, denies easy categorization and allows the GOP to paint a heavily biased picture that most of the time is not clarified by diligent journalists save the unusually perspicacious Marty Trillhaase of the Lewiston Tribune.

Another part of the GOP “starve education” plan started with Governor Dirk Kempthorne, who, along with many Republicans (the prominent exception being former Governor Phil Batt) started advocating borrowing against anticipated federal grant money to fund highway and infrastructure improvements. Proceeds from bond sales based on this premise became known as “Garvee” funding.

Then Republicans hit on the scheme of borrowing against anticipated sales tax revenue. This became “Star” funding. Continue Reading »

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Aug 07 2012

WA: Guber update

Published by under Washington

A short update is merited on the governor’s race, owing to some real change from the earliest posted numbers …

Democrat Jay Inslee has jumped to a substantial lead statewide over Republican Rob McKenna, and the real key here is King County.

McKenna has been an elected member of the King County council, and part of the rationale for his anticipated strength statewide has been a presumption that he would do much better in King than most Republicans.

Well, with 20% of the King vote in, Inslee is at 58.5%, and McKenna 35.4%. If those numbers roughly hold and each gains proportionately in the coming two-man race, McKenna will have a hard time racking up a large enough margin elsewhere to overcome King. So far the statewide patterns (Most of the Puget area including both Snohomish and Pierce going blue, nearly everything else red) show the two of them roughly matching what many Democratic statewide winners in recent years have done.

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Aug 07 2012

WA: First, initial look

Published by under Washington

So, in advance of viewing any news reports or spin (this is by way of the Secretary of State’s office rundown):

Not much by way of surprises. At this point. And they generally add up to more or less what people seem to be expecting for November.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell is at nearly twice the vote of Republican challenger Michael Baumgartner; she may not wind up in November with quite so large a lead, but it will be landslide, unless this early indicator is way off.

In District 1, which should be the hottest race in the state, John Koster, the sole Republican, is at about 47% of the total, which portends a general election running fairly close. Suzan DelBene, who has massively outspent everyone, seems to be shooting past what weeks ago looked like a lead for fellow Democrat Darcy Burner, and looks like she will be Koster’s sparring partner for the next three months. Again, no big surprise. (The same two are ahead for the one-month short-term election, so voters didn’t, evidently, decide to vary their selections much.)

Of some interest in the new district, District 10, based around the Olympia area: Democrat Denny Heck, who ran for the House two years ago and now seems ideally positioned for this new district, could have a closer run than had been expected. He’s ahead at this point, at 34% (second place apparently goes to Republican Dick Muri, at 29%), but if among the various candidates you add up all those on each side of the fence, you get an overall Democratic total of 51% Democratic and 46% Republican – suggesting that while Heck may enter the fall with an advantage, it will not be overwhelming.

And the big one, the hot governor’s race? Republican Rob McKenna (45.9%) and Democrat Jay Inslee (43.2%) are running close, and since Seattle is barely accounted for in these early returns, you can call this close. This has looked like a close, hot race for a long time now, and that still looks true.

At least for now. One thing clear about Washington voting in recent years is that unless a race is a runaway, be cautious writing anything office on election night.

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Aug 07 2012

Gulled in Washington

Published by under Washington

seagull
photo/Washington State Patrol

Okay, before we get into the Washington primary results tonight, consider this for just a moment from the Washington State Patrol …

Trooper Bart Maupin from District 7’s Bellingham Detachment responded to the report of a “Large Bird in the road” on Interstate 5 in the city of Blaine, a ¼ mile south of the Canadian Border on July 30th, 2012. Normally when troopers get dispatched for a live animal call, the “Animal” is often times gone or is moving under its own power away from traffic. This time, the bird needed our help getting off the roadway. It seems he was disabled with a broken wing and was sitting on the centerline waiting for help to arrive.

Trooper Maupin gave assistance to the seagull, removing he or she from the road and placing it in the rear of his patrol car where he transported it to the Northwest Wildlife rehabilitation center in Deming WA. While on the way to “get fixed” trooper Maupin warned the seagull to move to the shoulder or nearest branch next time to eliminate the chances for getting hit J. It’s not known how long the wing will take to mend.

A funny side note is while trooper Maupin was en route to the Wildlife rehab place, another trooper had a driver run from him. The seagull went for a ride along while trooper Maupin responded to and helped out with containment until the guy (Suspect) was caught.

It is not known if the seagull is a Canadian or American citizen. It refused to give information.

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Aug 05 2012

On the substance border line

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idahocolumnn

In remote mountains at about 7,000 feet, above the small Idaho farm town Grace – there must have been some crooked smiles among purveyors of the illicit as they passed through – developed one of the largest and more sophisticated criminal enterprises Idaho has recently seen.

A mass coalition of law enforcement agencies, even including the state national guard, last week swept into the Carbou County backcountry and found an estimated 40,000 marijuana plants. Street value estimates in such cases often are inflated, but it had to have been large. There was law enforcement talk of possible connections to a Mexican cartel; the size of the operation would argue in favor of that theory.

That was not the only big pot bust recently. Southwest of Jerome, 1,100 marijuana plants were found (in an aerial recon), also last week. The week before, they found another 6,500 plants in a Gooding County field.

The fact of these big recent grow finds isn’t proof of major recent growth of an Idaho marijuana industry. But it feels like evidence.

Could even be some cause and effect. Barring coincidence, if large organizations really are behind these big grow operations, what’s happening in neighboring states may have something to do with it.

Eight states may have marijuana-related measures, all aimed at liberalizing pot law, on their ballots this fall. In Oregon and Washington measures to legalize, tax and regulate have hit the ballot, and have a fair chance of passing. Colorado voters will consider a similar option. In these states, if the measures pass, there’ll be a big tussle with the federal government, whose anti-pot laws will not have changed at all. But there’ll also be further growth, probably a balloon, in above-the-table grow operations. In Oregon, there already are a number of large farming businesses openly growing marijuana, under the state’s medical marijuana law. Their formal status is pretty gray-area, even apart from the federal law, but passage of the state ballot issue almost certainly would mean an expansion.

Is it coincidence that more hidden grow operations are turning up in Idaho? Nationally, the Drug Enforcement Agency reports seizures overall fell 35 percent from 2010 to 2011. It may be that more of the pot traffic in Oregon and Washington, and some other states, is becoming internalized as it becomes available through near-conventional means. In Idaho, where even a modest proposal to legalize hemp (which has no psychotropic effect but does have many other marketable uses) has gone nowhere, the underground is, well, deeper underground. There may be less Oregon marketplace for traditional criminal lines of traffic, but these connections are relatively unchanged in Idaho.

State laws matter. When Washington liquor sales moved, some weeks ago, from state stores to private retail sales, prices bounced up. That’s probably a short-term phenomenon, but for the moment at least it has led to heavy traffic in lower-priced Idaho state liquor stores, presumably from Washington residents. (The same thing has happened on the Washington-Oregon border.)

What sort of ongoing effects might Idaho seat if there’s a sorta-kinda pot legalization, and marketplace, west of the Idaho line, and none to the east?

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Aug 03 2012

Walden moving up, staying put?

Published by under Oregon

As the only major-office Republican in Oregon for, well, quite a few years now, Representative Greg Walden has for some time been an obvious checkpoint for his party’s nomination for a higher in-state office, say governor or senator.

There’s been some expression of interest in his part in the past, but not for quite a while now. And maybe less in the next few years.

Here’s an item from today’s Daily Kos political roundup:

GOP Rep. Greg Walden has long been viewed as interested in moving up the House leadership ranks, so any chance that he might run for governor or senator in 2014 always seemed slim. Now, that looks even less likely, since he’s prepping a bid to become chair of the NRCC next cycle. The job is currently held by Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who had some positive things to say about Walden, and no one else really seems to be in the mix, so I’d guess Walden is quite likely to wind up with the gig.

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Aug 02 2012

Looking toward recovery

Published by under Idaho

mendiola
Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

Most of the cylinders in Idaho’s economic engine appear to be firing – with virtually all sectors throughout the Gem State showing improvement to varying degrees as a widespread recovery gains traction.

Gynii Gilliam, chief economic development officer for the Idaho Department of Commerce, says her main objective – in addition to recruiting new companies to the state and enhancing existing businesses – is to create jobs for the 60,000 Idahoans still pursuing work.

During a television interview on “Business Dynamics,” a Pocatello cable access program, Gilliam said nine prospective companies employing 10 to 100 people are a definite go for Idaho and should be announcing their plans soon. They entail agriculture, manufacturing and business services.

Another nine projects are engaged in property negotiations across the state, deciding whether to lease or purchase. Twenty other promising companies are each deciding between two locations, including sites outside the state. In June, the Idaho Commerce Department fielded 10 to 14 new leads from prospective employers, Gilliam said.

 

DGynii Gilliam
Gynii Gilliam served as Bannock Development Corporation’s executive director for six years before moving to Boise last January to work for the Idaho Department of Commerce.

 

Idaho’s unemployment rate is tracking below the national average with the farming and manufacturing sectors running strong. “Across the board, agriculture and food processing are doing very well,” she said, adding state exports now total $6 billion annually or about 10 percent of the Gross State Product with semiconductors dominating.

Gilliam said the future looks bright for Micron Technology, Hewlett-Packard and ON Semiconductor – large electronics employers that play significant roles in Idaho’s economy – because the demand for technology will continue to surge. Smaller partners in the tech sector also will benefit.

“Micron will recover,” she predicted, adding that ON is doing quite well with acquisitions and partnerships. It remains to be seen what impact H-P’s announced reorganization and layoffs will have on its Boise operations.

Gilliam was executive director for Bannock Development Corporation in Pocatello for six years prior to assuming her Commerce responsibilities in Boise last January. Before departing the Gate City, she helped secure Allstate Insurance and ATCO operations for Pocatello.

Allstate employs more than 200 at its Pocatello center with plans to expand its work force to more than 500. Continue Reading »

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Aug 01 2012

Presidential speculation

Published by under Carlson

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

With apologies to songwriter Paul Simon, “where have you gone, Jon Huntsman? A nation turns its hungry eyes to you.”

If ever the time is ripe for a third party entrant, it is now and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., could be the Ross Perot of 2012. Unlike the Texas billionaire, though, who set the highwater mark (19%) for a third party independent in 1992, enabling Bill Clinton to win with a plurality (44%), Huntsman would have a real shot at winning.

Huntsman says he is not interested in such a scenario, by the way, but this is fantasy and one can speculate. Here’s how and why, remote though the prospects are, it could be accomplished.

First, there is a vehicle in place. A group of non-partisan independents has qualified a “person to be named later” and/or a placeholder in almost all the states of the union reportedly. Organizing largely through the internet, after both major parties hold their conventions, they plan to conduct an internet convention to select their nominee.

The former Utah governor and ambassador to China is high on their list of candidates because of his successful six years as Utah’s socially moderate but fiscally conservative governor and his foreign affairs experience.

Handsome, personable, intelligent and a family man, Huntsman polls well with independents, Democrats and Republicans unhappy with their respective nominees. In particular he does well with Republicans who cannot trust Mitt Romney. Huntsman is able to inspire that hard to define but indispensable factor of coming across as trustworthy. Continue Reading »

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