Archive for March, 2013

Mar 31 2013

The choice in front of you

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

The departure of Duane Nellis as president of the University of Idaho has kicked in a nationwide search for a replacement, standard procedure these days for filling such jobs as university presidents.

It will take about a year. It will involve dozens of people, vast amounts of time, and considerable money and angst. How much money for the search? That varies, but similar searches around the country these days tend to cost upward of $100,000, for consultants, travel, advertising and more.

The president it generates probably, if history is any guide, will have an impressive resume but little or no experience with either Idaho or the university, and so necessarily will have to spend a year or two getting acquainted and learning the ropes. Because the search is national, salary and benefits will ratchet up to the national marketplace level, which has been racheting ever higher and higher.

How long will this investment – assuming the choice is a good one, which isn’t always the case – last? Maybe not long. In the case of Nellis, chosen by a nationwide search, about four years. His predecessor as permanent president, Timothy White, also lasted four years. His predecessor, Robert Hoover, lasted a little longer, about seven years, but left under a cloud.

Something like this probably will be the university’s, and Idaho’s, experience again.

Or.

Last week an interim president – to fill in between Nellis and a permanent successor – was named. He is Don Burnett, the dean of the university’s law school.

The state Board of Education could do a lot worse than to just make his appointment permanent, right now.

If he’d take it (his age, in his mid-60s, might be his argument against). But consider his background. Continue Reading »

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Mar 30 2013

First take: Education dysfunction

Published by under First Take

news

DYSFUNCTION JUNCTION The Idaho Legislature has its problems, and many public school advocates would be quick to list them, certainly in terms of this session. But note too a recently-posted piece by Senator Steven Thayn, R-Emmett: “I believe the 2013 legislative session has been a dysfunctional session as far as education issues are concerned. There is a lack of common direction, agreed upon goals, or methods needed to accomplish these undefined goals. The legislature is drowning in information without direction.

“This confusion has lead to conflicting policies. The Legislature is restoring some of the cuts to teacher salaries while at the same time making it easier for the school districts to reduce teacher salaries. Also, there is a desire to give parents choice in education but opposition to funding charter schools. This confusion is to be expected with the defeat of the propositions in November. What should be the direction of education reform? Many, especially the Idaho Education Association (teachers union), assert that anything the voters rejected in November should not be addressed this session. “The voters have spoken” is the refrain. I, personally, do not know exactly what the voters really meant except for one thing — the voters did not like the process. The voters felt like the Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Legislature simply imposed a plan on the teachers without the teachers input. They want the stakeholders to work together.”

Suspicion here is that they wanted more than that. But useful thought processes begin with an acknowledgement that one doesn’t have all the answers, something Thayne certainly is doing here.

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Mar 29 2013

Idaho Democrats: Medicaid decisions

Published by under Idaho,Reading

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

From a statement on March 28 by Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Kenck.

How does half a billion dollars in savings to counties and homeowners sound? How about, at the same time, we get health care to 110,000 Idahoans who don’t have it?

That is exactly what Idaho’s Democratic lawmakers have tried to do in the Capitol this year. That is exactly what our state’s GOP leaders refuse to consider. The issue is Medicaid Expansion and the GOP fears blowback from their “return to the gold standard” faction.

But, what do GOP leaders tell the public as to why they won’t make this wise policy choice? Why will they allow Idaho families to suffer the indignity and despair of poor health care when a far more humane (not mention fiscally responsible) option exists?

“We are going to be done by Friday, and I don’t think we can give that issue the thorough public vetting that it needs between now and then,” House Speaker Scott Bedke told the press. “They have my full attention, because it seems to offer very, very significant property tax relief.”

Good news!

GOP senators are just dysfunctional enough to smack down the $1.3 billion education budget at the 11th hour, giving most lawmakers nothing to do for another whole week. Now, they have plenty of time to take recommendations from months of study by a governor’s work group and take Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong’s word that he has the tools to make it all happen right away.

It’s not as if the GOP-controlled Legislature can’t make things happen fast if they care about something. Just last year they handed Idaho’s richest 17 percent of citizens a $35 million gift in the final days of the session.

Idaho Democratic lawmakers have pressed hard on this issue and repeatedly have been foiled by a GOP united against Idaho’s best interests.

It’s time for the GOP to stop playing the politics of appeasement to the radical-wing of their base. Businesses want this policy. Our state’s economy will benefit from this policy. Our federal taxes will remain the same even as we pay for other state’s that are wise enough to take advantage of this policy. Idaho’s children, who don’t have dental care or access to basic health services, absolutely need this policy.

My fellow Idahoans, it is up to us. Contact your legislators over the weekend. Tell them to do their jobs! Tell them to stop squandering opportunities and to stop making us pay for partisan political bickering. Tell them to expand Medicaid coverage—and then, after doing something good, tell them to go home.

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Mar 29 2013

Economic hits in eastern Idaho

Published by under Idaho,Mendiola

Chase
 
Former Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase, left, answers a question after participating in an economic impact forum. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

With Battelle Energy Alliance and CH2M-WG Idaho eliminating hundreds of high-paying jobs in the past year with more layoffs to come at the Idaho National Laboratory, eastern Idaho’s economy has taken a major hit unlike anything it has absorbed in recent years.

The second largest employer in Idaho behind state government, INL has accounted for about 8,000 direct jobs and roughly 24,000 indirect jobs in the state, boasting a $3.5 billion total economic impact and generating about 6 percent of Idaho’s entire tax revenue.

At its peak, total INL employment once stood at 13,000. About 3.5 percent of Idaho’s total work force has been attributed to INL with one in five jobs from Pocatello to Rexburg tied to the federal nuclear research and development site, including an estimated 760 employees in Pocatello and about 1,200 in Blackfoot, not to mention the majority of INL workers in Idaho Falls.

While Bonneville County has benefited the most from the billions of federal dollars pumped into the INL over the years, Bannock and Bingham counties also have reaped lucrative cream off the top.

Pocatello, however, has suffered significant setbacks in the past year. Hoku Materials’ polysilicon plant, once considered a great boon to Bannock County’s economy, sits hauntingly vacant after hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in it and some 200 employees were terminated.

Since acquiring AMI Semiconductor in March 2008, Phoenix-based ON Semiconductor has reduced employment at its Pocatello plant – once AMI’s world headquarters – by a few hundred, but it has invested millions into sophisticated equipment at the integrated circuit fabrication site.

Heinz’ frozen food plant in Pocatello at one time surpassed the ON plant and Union Pacific Railroad as Pocatello’s largest private employer with 800 workers, but it cut 80 full-time employees this month due to eliminating a frozen food line, dropping its total employment now to about 400.

The Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo once pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Pocatello’s economy in one week, attracting thousands of enthusiasts, but it trotted off to Oklahoma City in 2011 after 23 years at Idaho State University’s Holt Arena.

The Western Frontier Pro Rodeo ran in its place for two years, but as of 2013, there will be no major rodeo in Pocatello for the first time in 70 years, hurting motels, restaurants and retail stores accustomed to the annual boost in spending.

Needless to say, these daunting developments pose stiff challenges for the region’s business and government leaders. Some of those key players appeared at a well-attended March 27 economic impact panel discussion at Idaho State University and emphasized positive trends in the region, expressing optimism.

It was disclosed that evening at the forum that Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and Bannock Development Corp. Executive Director John Regetz were in California seeking to recruit companies disgruntled by the Golden State’s rising taxes and burdensome regulations.

Allstate’s location of a customer service center in Chubbuck that employs hundreds was cited as a major coup for Bannock County. A WinCo super store recently opened and Herberger’s opened its first department store in Idaho at the Pine Ridge Mall. Canadian-based ATCO also recently located a manufacturing operation at the Gateway West Industrial Center.

Responding to questions about Hoku, former Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase and Idaho Department of Commerce Chief Economic Development Officer Gynii Gilliam explained that because Hoku was a new company engaged in new technology, the city decided it was too risky to finance the project by selling bonds. Gilliam was Bannock Development’s executive director at the time, and Chase was mayor.

Using creative financing, the city required Hoku to front the money. “If we had bonded it, we would be in big trouble right now,” Gilliam said, noting the plant was under construction for five years, greatly improving the property. “Pocatello is not out anything.”

Chase said the city owns the Hoku property and put $1 million into the project. The site’s infrastructure and equipment, including an electrical substation, are worth an estimated $30 million. All of its onsite steel will not go to waste, Chase predicted.

Chase, who chairs the Idaho Water Resource Board and serves as a consultant for the Bingham Economic Development Corporation, said one of the greatest challenges for economic developers is securing good paying jobs with benefits. Retail sales also are struggling in the region, he noted.

High commodity prices have helped the agriculture sector, and the stock market’s rise has boosted 401(k) values, creating more spendable income, Chase said. However, he noted Idaho has the highest percentage of people making minimum wage in the nation and one of the lowest average incomes per family.

After Pocatello in 2001 lost FMC’s elemental phosphorus plant that employed hundreds of workers and Union Pacific downsized its Pocatello operations, a $12-an-hour job with benefits is now considered good, he said. Continue Reading »

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Mar 28 2013

Inslee off the fence

cascades RANDY
STAPILUS
 
West of
the Cascades

A broad take on Jay Inslee, in the few months since he was elected and then sworn in as Washington’s governor, has been that he’s full of smiles and intentions of working with everybody, but that there’s not been a lot of coming down clearly on policy, one way or another.

That ended today, as these things often do, with numbers.

His proposed budget calls for $1.2 billion in targeted education increases, among other things. His thematic statement was that “I feel deeply that my number one priority is to help rebuild our economy, get people working again, and take important steps toward building a workforce for the future. And that begins with education.”

Also begins with spending more than Republicans would like, and that’s notably important among the Republicans who now control the Senate.

From Inslee’s press release: “Inslee has said repeatedly that the state cannot fund its basic education obligations by making deeper cuts to vital services for children, seniors and vulnerable adults. Instead, the Governor proposes closing tax breaks and extending tax rates set to expire June 30 — a 0.3 percent business and occupation tax surcharge paid by doctors, lawyers, accountants and others and a 50-cent-per gallon beer tax.”

That sets out with some clarity what he wants to do. It also marks out the battleground for the remainder of the session – or, if he holds to his determination (he and the House Democrats), however many subsequent special sessions lie in wait.

This has become a battle of wills. If Inslee’s approach has been to build up political chits till now, he’s reached the point where spending them will become necessary.

Washington’s legislative session is about to get a lot more interesting: The sides have now begun to fully collide.

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Mar 27 2013

Moving the Coeur

Published by under Idaho

This probably isn’t one of those business stories Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter will want to play up, though it concerns one of Idaho’s better-known companies (historically emblematic) – the Coeur Mining company, based in Coeur d’Alene.

Or, it has been. From the company’s press release out today:

Officials from Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation (NYSE: CDE, TSX:CDM) today joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn’s administration to announce that Coeur will move its corporate headquarters to downtown Chicago.

Coeur is currently headquartered in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the company’s home since 1985, and employs nearly 2,000 people worldwide. The company expects to complete the move to Chicago in the third quarter of 2013 and to hire at least 60 employees at its downtown headquarters by the end of 2014. In addition, Coeur intends to change its name to Coeur Mining in mid-­‐May following its Annual Meeting.

“Coeur could have chosen any number of cities for its home, but they chose Chicago because Chicago gives the company its best opportunity to grow, expand and thrive,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Coeur needs a global city with a deep talent pool and access to international markets. I am proud that the city worked to put its best foot forward and attract this vital company. I look forward to working with Coeur as they make Chicago their new home.”

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Mar 27 2013

Headlines we could do without

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The first headline:

COMMANDANT TO AFGHANISTAN MARINES
“MAKE EVERY SHOT COUNT”

A day or so later, the second headline appeared:

GUN SHOPS RUNNING
OUT OF AMMUNITION

The next day, another:

DEATH THREATS CANCEL
MICHAEL VICK BOOK TOUR

Taken individually, each of those headlines stands alone as events in today’s news. Taken together, they tell a different story of a nation stagnating under political failure, citizens arming themselves against their own government and each other and a society where fear of lawlessness – steeped in ignorance – interferes with the conduct of our daily lives.

While the first story seems to be about the top general in the Marines passing along some common sense combat philosophy – probably already learned in basic training – it’s really more a tragic statement about our current national political failures.

The real reason for the general’s admonition is the sequester! The self-inflicted “let’s-play-political-chicken-with-our-national-economy-and-our-national-defense” idiocy our “representatives” have created in Washington. What the commandant was really telling the troops was “We’re running out of money to buy the ammunition and other weaponry you need to beat the enemy while trying to get yourselves out of that damned country alive.”

In fact, all our military services are being crippled by politicians – not all politicians – just the idiots who’ve absolutely no idea what the hell they’re doing in elective office. The army is cancelling training maneuvers and other preparedness activities. Including weapons use. The air force has curtailed training missions and many routine operations. The navy has called some ships back to port, limited flight operations because of the costs of aviation fuel and is foregoing certain readiness activities. The coast guard has reduced its sea-going drug interdiction missions. All services have begun laying off civilian support workers. Because our Congress has taken a meat axe to make indiscriminate cuts in our entire national budget.

The second headline is also a dreadful commentary on this country at the moment. A country slowly being paralyzed by paranoia and fear. Gun sellers are running out of weapons and the ammunition for the first time in our nation’s history because a bunch of scared people are hoarding it all to use on their government. Or their neighbors. Or each other.

New polling shows most Americans don’t own a gun and they’re not the one’s out there buying one for the first time. Today’s buyers are more likely to be people who already have guns and now are buying still more while putting dozens more boxes of ammunition into the crawl space under their homes.

The third headline – Michael Vick and his book tour – is really connected to – and an outgrowth of – the gun craziness and speaks to irrational fears and our personal safety. For all of us.

I’m not a big fan of Michael Vick. The savagery of his dog fighting years is repulsive – a stain he’ll carry for life. But he was convicted – served his time – has engaged in some extensive charitable work regarding animals – has rededicated himself to responsible animal care – and has resumed his professional football career in fine manner. The way I was raised, he did the crime – he did his time – he’s trying to make amends. That should square him with society. Those are our normal expectations of someone who’s done something wrong. As the anti-gay crowd is fond of saying “Love the sinner – hate the sin.”

Now he’s written a book about his experiences – and his growth – as a lot of people in public life have done. But his publisher has had to cancel all his book-signing appearances because of repeated anonymous threats to kill him if he appears in certain cities. For a book signing? In a book store?

In nearly all instances, threats against Vick are anonymous. That’s the curse of the blessing of technology today. The Internet. Cretins with the mental acuity of moss can lob their threats with no personal responsibility. But several police departments have taken it seriously enough to ask Vick to stay away. So he has.

Is it too much to connect the dots here? From cowards among us who use anonymity to foist their irrational hate on the rest of us so our normal behavior is changed to avoid violence? To national paranoia and more irrational fear that causes thousands of Americans to create personal armories to use against any of the rest of us who might appear to be a threat to them? To our very national defense which is hamstrung by politicians irrationally who fear the size of their own government and, in that fear, are putting our national security and those who provide it in jeopardy?

I don’t think so. Fear seems to have become our common national theme. It’s manifest in nearly everything we do. We’re being consumed by it nationally – in politics – in our personal relationships – in groups trying to divide themselves from the rest of us in what used to be a united country.

But if you really want to feel fear – to be afraid – put yourself in a fox hole in Afghanistan – 20-years-old – and your commanding general has just told you to be careful with your ammunition because politicians have made it impossible for the Marines to buy more.

Now THAT’s fear!

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Mar 27 2013

What doesn’t he understand?

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Shame on State Senator Bob Nonini. It was bad enough that the ethically-challenged state senator from District 3 went unpunished by the Senate Leadership for his role in helping to secure contributions and contributing himself to Tea Party challengers to Republican incumbent state senators like Shawn Keough from Sandpoint and Dean Cameron from Rupert.

The latter two are two of the hardest working members of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee and are veteran, reasonable, caring listening legislators. Nonini last year, in an apparent effort to curry favor with the then House Speaker Lawrence Denny, and the Tea Party types conspired with among others Avista lobbyist Neil Colwell to secure and send some substantial contributions to challengers to incumbents in his party.

Nonini had to know he was putting at risk his ability work with his future colleagues should he fail, but apparently didn’t care. Colwell at least received a dressing down from his superiors at Avista and CEO Scott Morris drove to Sandpoint to meet personally with and apologize to Senator Keough and Representatives Erik Anderson and George Eskridge for the perfidy and stupidity of their lobbyist.

Rumors circulated before the session that the GOP Senate Leadership, capably led by Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill and Majority Leader Bart Davis, planned to deny Nonini any committee assignments and ban him from the Republican caucus. Nothing of the sort happened, however. Continue Reading »

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Mar 26 2013

Responsibility

Published by under Idaho

There was a time not so long ago that Dave Oliveria, the Spokesman-Review‘s columnist/blogger for northern Idaho, was clearly sympathetic with the area’s ascendant Republican politicians. He’s a self-described himself conservative, as in one interview where he recalled, “In 2004, we had the presidential election and I was probably one of the few in the newsroom who supported Bush. I wanted an outlet. I wanted to provide a conservative voice online to counter some of the liberal voices.”

I mention this by way of setting up the bonafides when Oliveria, as he has done increasingly in recent years, takes on the local Republicans.

He started a post today noting that the Kootenai County treasurer, who had planned to resign, withdrew the resignation after becoming concerned that the county’s Republican central committee, which selects nominees for replacing him, would not choose someone qualified for the job.

Oliveria: “The GOP Central Committee no longer can be trusted to act in the best interests of the public. Rather, it has become a vehicle for Constitutionalists, Libertarians, Ron Paulers, and various other elements of the local Tea Party to push their extreme agendas under the name of the Republican Party. For the past year, we have watched as “Republican” activists have created turmoil on the Coeur d’Alene City Council and Coeur d’Alene School Board. Councilman Steve Adams, a former North Idaho Patriot for Ron Paul, won office as a “Republican” and now has Coeur d’Alene facing an economic disaster as a result of his flipflop stand against wastewater treatment expansion. The Coeur d’Alene School Board, including three appointees, all of whom have Republican Party backing, has bounced from one self-inflicted controversy to another in the last 9 months.”

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Mar 26 2013

First take: White collar, Medicaid

Published by under First Take

news

BOEING JOBS It’s not just how many jobs; it’s also what kind of jobs, and how much they pay. That may give some outsized significance to the report out today about the prospect that Boeing may moved hundreds of white collar jobs from the Puget Sound area south to California. In the Seattle Times: “The company’s blue-collar workforce last week learned Boeing would shrink the ranks of machinists by more than 2,000 this year, including about 800 layoffs. Boeing’s white-collar workforce in the region will also lose some jobs — though the process will be more piecemeal.”

IDAHO MEDICAID You might think that the idea of sending tax money to the federal government only to deliberately get less of it back might be a winning arguing point … even in Idaho. A Medicaid committee set up by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, no fan of the feds, says as much, that such “leaves Idaho citizens in the frustrating dilemma of Idaho federal tax dollars supporting expansion in other states, while our taxpayers reap none of the benefits. We urge serious consideration of the negative consequences of delaying expansion.” As matters stand, though, legislative leaders seem poised to block even consideration of the idea this year.

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Mar 25 2013

Changes ahead on Indian health

Published by under Trahant

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

Three years ago, on March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act. The bill also included the permanent authorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

As I wrote at the time: “When Medicare and Medicaid passed Congress in 1965 and were signed into law there was no consideration – none – of how those bills impacted Indian Country. It was as if the Indian Health Service, then all federal employees, was off the books, a forgotten instrument. In fact there wasn’t even a plan that allowed IHS to tap into Medicare or Medicaid dollars. That had to wait for the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976.

That is not the case with President Obama’s health care reform. Indian Country is included throughout the document in large and small measures designed to improve the health of Native people.”

Indeed, three years later, only a year before many of the most important provisions of the law begin, it’s hard to understate what this law means to the Indian health system.

Consider the money. The Indian Health Service is funded largely by appropriations. In recent years this has worked well with bipartisan support for increased funding. Since 2008 there has been a 29 percent increase in IHS funding.

But that is unlikely to continue. The appropriations process itself is, well, I’ll use the technical term here, a total wreck. So getting a logical appropriation will be less and less likely.

But the Affordable Care Act opens up revenue streams that are not appropriations, money that is, essentially, automatic. If a patient qualifies, then the money is there. This happens two ways. First, many more people will be eligible for Medicaid funding and second there will be new insurance exchanges with plans that could be purchased by both individuals and tribes, mostly, as employers. Continue Reading »

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Mar 24 2013

A new highway bridge – by McDonald’s?

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Several weeks ago, some new express lanes were added to the Washington D.C. beltway – not normally a point of interest or concern here in our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods. Your neighborhood either, I’d guess. But, you might pay more attention if you knew who paid for those improvements and who owns them – private construction companies Flour and Transurban.

“And just why did those two private outfits put up the millions to add to our national transportation system?” you ask. “To make a profit,” sez I. “To own them,” sez I. And that worries me. A lot.

The new D.C. traffic lanes are for carpool use. But, if you’re alone, want to get out of the other four lanes and into the much lighter traffic, go ahead. After you pay the fee. For a few bucks more, you can just whiz to work alone with the carpoolers. And your money goes where? Why, Flour and Transurban, of course. After all, it’s their road now. Or, at least part of it.

One of the tenets of conservatism I’ve long agreed with is government should do the things government does best – private enterprise should do what private enterprise does well. Good balance. Philosophically and often fiscally. But the key is “balance.” And that’s too often hard to achieve.
We look to government for a sound military and conducting our national defense. But, over the last decade or so, we’ve turned over more of the responsibility for our military operations to private business. Housing, food service, construction and a lot of other formerly military-only tasks are now done in many places by civilian contractors.

You might be O.K. with that. But how about the same civilian contracting for security and fighting a war? How about the thousands of mercenaries we hire? Civilians. Is that just the same concept? Firing the bullets instead of cooking food or building a base? Killing on behalf of our government so the military can do something else?

As I said, balance.

In a more mundane way, this privately-owned highway business raises a lot of questions about who should be doing what. Historically, some level of government has always built all our highways. We have city, county, state and federal systems. We build ‘em and we maintain ‘em. We own ‘em.

But, as our various governments are pushed harder against the financial wall, they’re looking for help. Really big construction and engineering companies like Bechtel and Samsung are talking with the big – really big – banks. Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs are two – with billions in pension funds and all those insurance dollars just lying around. The idea is they put up large amounts of up-front funding, getting paid back – plus a lot of interest – by owning them and charging us for using them. Continue Reading »

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Mar 24 2013

The little-known tax

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

If you’re an Idaho taxpayer, you may be an Idaho tax scofflaw and not even know it.

Probably few Idahoans know about the use tax, and probably fewer pay all of it that is owed.

The use tax is a kind of counterpart to the much better-known sales tax. When you buy a product in Idaho, you are (in most cases) charged a sales tax, which the seller in turn has to forward to the state. Suppose you buy something in Oregon or Montana (or, for that matter, Alaska, Delaware or New Hampshire) – one of the five states that do not charge sales tax – and bring it back to Idaho? That can amount to significant money in the case of something like furniture or a car. That way, you can avoid sales tax and cut six percent off your cost, right?

Idaho law has considered this, and it imposes a use tax. If you buy it over the border and bring it back to Idaho to “use,” you have to pay the equivalent of the sales tax. The state is fairly rigorous on the car front, since autos used by Idahoans have to be registered in Idaho.

Generally, the use tax has to be “self-assessed,” sort of an honor system. Every now and then the Tax Commission, to which it is supposed to be paid, issues a statement on the subject. Last week, for example, it advised (in advance of income tax filings):

“Check your invoices to see whether sales tax was collected on the following purchases, which may require a use tax payment: Magazine subscriptions; Book and record clubs; Out-of-state catalog purchases; Merchandise bought over the Internet (including digital music, movies, books, games, etc.); Purchases in a state where no sales tax is charged; Untaxed purchases of merchandise from Idaho vendors. If sales tax was not collected, Idaho makes it easy for taxpayers to pay their use tax when they file their annual income tax return, which is due by April 15.  Simply total your untaxed purchases, multiply that total by .06, and enter that amount, rounded to the nearest dollar, on the appropriate line of your income tax return.” Continue Reading »

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Mar 23 2013

In the Briefings

Published by under Briefings

dog at legislature
 
Shelby, a dog attacked by a wolf, is accompanied in the hallway outside hearing rooms by a group of legislators.

 

In Washington, the economic picture looks a little better – not a lot, but a little – after the latest economic update came in last week. Atop that, unemployment rates seem to be holding steady too.

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Mar 23 2013

On Obamacare bashing

Published by under Reading

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

This opinion is by Duff McKee, a former Idaho district judge. He originally posted it on Facebook.

The continued diatribe from the extreme right wing, the incessant drumbeat that Obamacare must be repealed in its entirety, and the more recent attempts to emasculate or nullify the act by withholding state participation, defy reason and common sense to the point of becoming ridiculous.

The plain fact is that under any fair evaluation the Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare, when taken in its entirety, is a moderate compromise of policies embracing traditional values and views of both the right and the left. Obamacare is not a federal take-over of health care, it is an overhaul of health insurance. It is not an irresponsible give-away to benefit one segment of society at the expense of another, it is a compendium of moderate policies and methods to benefit all of society, methods that have long been recognized and used by both left and right. To call it Socialism or Marxism is uneducated – showing a lack of understanding of either the fundamentals of Socialism or the teachings of Karl Marx. To make these arguments pejoratively, as though the Act is an evil encroachment upon our freedom, demonstrates a blatant ignorance of how our government and economy actually work.

The plain fact is that every president beginning with Truman – both Republican and Democrat alike – has tried to secure passage of some form of universal healthcare. The parties have and do differ of aspects of policy, but both parties have long considered healthcare to be a matter of legitimate concern to the government.

Over the years we have seen the arrival of expansive programs extending government involvement into the delivery of health care, some after significant debate and others with broad bipartisan sponsorship — Social Security’s SSI, Medicare, Medicaid, Prescription Drug Benefits, and Children Health Insurance Programs identify the main programs, but there are many more. These programs have been fully assimilated into our society and are now endorsed by both parties. There are differences, certainly, and both sides continue to propose adjustments and modifications, but with the exception of a very few extremists, nobody argues that any of these programs should be abandoned. Government participation in healthcare is here to stay as an essential ingredient of government service.

Obamacare is an exemplar of a middle-of-the-road compromise, embracing principles dear to the heart of both sides. While the overall objective of universal healthcare is a long-held liberal tenet, the framework of Obamacare may have been inspired by the national insurance plan suggested by Nixon in the 1970s. Parts of Obamacare mirror research in the late 1980s by the Heritage Foundation, a deep red conservative think tank. The concepts were fashioned into the program adopted and successfully implemented in Massachusetts in 2006, which has been operating without any of the dire consequences suggested by the right wing ever since.

Obamacare caters to the right in that it is based upon private insurance, issued by private companies, through private premiums, and with plenty of room for individual selection. The foundation of the plan continues to be employer sponsored health insurance for as many as possible. It answers the goals of the left by providing machinery to make coverage available to all through premium subsidies and expanded Medicaid. And it provides a network of regulation over the insurance industry to prevent abuse and assure availability by including such provisions as a baseline of minimum coverage, elimination of lifetime ceilings, elimination of preexisting condition exclusions, inclusion of appeal processes and other means of dispute resolution, making coverage non-cancelable, and regulating the percentage of premium dollars that can be absorbed by administration and profit.

The act does mandate compliance and impose sanctions, but this is not contrary to our society or our freedom or our theory of government. We have long had mandatory automobile liability insurance, mandatory workers compensation insurance, and the extraordinarily popular mandatory retirement insurance. We require that our young be schooled, that our minorities be treated fairly, that our workplaces be free of avoidable hazards, and that we be paid a minimum wage for our efforts. We insist on quality and safety in the milk we drink, the meat we eat, the cars we drive, the planes we fly, the new houses we buy, and the bridges we cross. Sanctions are imposed for infractions in all of these. Obamacare presents nothing new. Continue Reading »

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Mar 22 2013

The cost of a lands shift

Published by under Idaho,Reading

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

From a March 21 letter written by Boise attorney (and former legislative candidate, and former U.S. attorney) Betty Richardson to the Idaho Legislature, on two measures intended to move some lands from federal to state control.

I write with regard to HCR 21 and HCR 22, both of which pertain to transferring much of Idaho’s federally owned land to the state. HCR 21 proposes that “the legislative council appoint a committee to undertake and complete a study of the process of the state acquiring title to and control of public lands controlled by the federal government in the state of Idaho.” HCR 22 sets out findings and demands the federal government “extinguish title to Idaho’s public lands and transfer title to those lands to the state of Idaho.”

Prior to making the demand referenced in HCR 22, it would seem wise to complete the study proposed in HCR 21. Further, it would seem crucial to expand the scope of that study to include a cost analysis, calculating the likely financial return to the state, as well as the cost to the state, of assuming the many obligations for which the federal government is now responsible. The important thing in any legislative change is to be thorough and honest. If the study committee takes a careful look at the fiscal issues, the legislature may find it prudent to proceed more slowly, if at all.

My concerns arise from my seven years of experience as the United States Attorney for the District of Idaho (1993-2001). A thorough cost analysis, I believe, will find the costs of a land transfer to far exceed the financial benefits. For instance, the transfer would require a huge additional state work force – not only to manage the lands but to carry out a great many attendant responsibilities. Below I offer just a few examples.

Presently, the federal government has the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting criminal activity on federal land and for defending its agencies when they are sued in civil actions. If the proposed land transfer were to take place, the state would be responsible not only for managing those lands, but also for investigating and prosecuting crimes that occur there and defending the many civil suits that will continue to be filed by landowners and environmental interests alike.

Moreover, federal law enforcement plays a critical role in eradicating illegal marijuana growing operations. Last year, federal, county and local law enforcement officers took down marijuana growing operations near Galena Summit in the Sawtooth National Forest, and in Caribou and Jerome counties. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management brought substantial resources to bear in these eradication efforts, resources that would need to be replaced by the state were a land transfer to take place. Continue Reading »

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Mar 21 2013

The change that won’t be

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

“Will they try to change the pizza inside or the box it came in?”

I’ve forgotten who asked that when Republicans announced shortly after the November election defeat they’d be trying to figure out what went wrong. But now the official GOP post-mortem has been published and the question is more relevant that ever. Also easier to answer. The box.

The apparent centerpiece of the Republican Party’s new effort for 2014 is the request $10 million to be set aside to hire more staff to do “fieldwork.” The idea is to put more GOP staff on the streets and in neighborhoods to spread messages of inclusion and cooperation. Of meaningful change. Create converts, as it were. Normally a good plan.

Leadership also wants to hire a technology guru – with support staff – to try to catch Democrats in the use of polling and social media. Reince Priebus and company want a reduction in the number of presidential debates and to move the national nominating convention earlier in the year than August because the races are pretty much over by then.

I’ve read the autopsy report at length. As a plan to redesign the box the pizza came in, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. The problem is, I can’t find any recommendations for a more positive message or to eliminate the social issues that’ve angered voters and cost the GOP recent elections. No new plans for improving the quality of candidates fielded or concrete steps for real inclusion and outreach. Nothing to improve the pizza inside. It’s all remodeling the box.

There’s no mention of ending Republican-sponsored efforts to erect barriers to minority voting, for example The report talks about “connecting” with minorities. But how to you do that truthfully when the Party has been proven to be the sponsor of congressional and legislative attempts to keep minorities from the polls?

You won’t find a new, more moderate position on gay marriage, either. How do you tell the LBGT community you want to include them for their votes but you deny them access to CPAC or other Republican programs? Continue Reading »

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RIDENBAUGH BOOKS
 


 
This will be one of the most talked-about Idaho books in Idaho this season: 14 years after its last edition, Ridenbaugh Press has released a list of 100 influential Idahoans. Randy Stapilus, the editor and publisher of the Idaho Weekly Briefing and author of four earlier similar lists, has based this one on levels of overall influence in the state – and freedom of action and ability to influence development of the state – as of the start of 2015.
 
100 Influential Idahoans 2015. By Randy Stapilus; published by Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 202 pages. Softcover. List price $16.95.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015 page.

100 Influential Idahoans 2015
Idaho
 
 
"Essentially, I write in the margins of motherhood—and everything else—then I work these notes into a monthly column about what it’s like raising my two young boys. Are my columns funny? Are they serious? They don’t fit into any one box neatly. ... I’ve won awards for “best humorous column” though I actually write about subjects as light as bulimia, bullying, birthing plans and breastfeeding. But also bon-bons. And barf, and birthdays." Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons. by Nathalie Hardy; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 238 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
Raising the Hardy Boys page.

 

Hardy

 
"Not a day passes that I don’t think about Vietnam. Sometimes its an aroma or just hearing the Vietnamese accent of a store clerk that triggers a memory. Unlike all too many soldiers, I never had to fire a weapon in anger. Return to civilian life was easy, but even after all these years away from the Army and Vietnam I find the experience – and knowledge – continue to shape my life daily."
 
Drafted! Vietnam in War and in Peace. by David R. Frazier; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton OR. 188 pgs. Softcover. $15.95.
The DRAFTED! page.

 

Drafted
 
Many critics said it could not be done - and it often almost came undone. Now the Snake River Basin Adjudication is done, and that improbable story is told here by three dozen of the people most centrally involved with it - judges, attorneys, legislators, engineers, water managers, water users and others in the room when the decisions were made.
Through the Waters: An Oral History of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. edited by the Idaho State Bar Water Law Section and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 300 pages. Softcover. $16.95.
See the THROUGH THE WATERS page.


 
Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh died on July 20, 2014; he was widely praised for steady leadership in difficult years. Writer Scott Jorgensen talks with Atiyeh and traces his background, and what others said about him.
Conversations with Atiyeh. by W. Scott Jorgensen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 140 pages. Softcover. $14.95.
The CONVERSATIONS WITH ATIYEH page.

Atiyeh
 
"Salvation through public service and the purging of awful sights seen during 1500 Vietnam War helicopter rescue missions before an untimely death, as told by a devoted brother, leaves a reader pondering life's unfairness. A haunting read." Chris Carlson, Medimont Reflections. ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good." Mike Kennedy.
One Flaming Hour: A memoir of Jerry Blackbird. by Mike Blackbird; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 220 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
See the ONE FLAMING HOUR page.


 
Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

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THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
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The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.