Senator Keough is right, small towns in Idaho need help.
Dialing in the details of the Tax Reimbursement Incentive (TRI) to suit smaller marketplaces is an appropriate move. This graph of population in the North Central region of Idaho gives you a sense of what small towns face. There are seven regions in Idaho; subtract South West (Boise) and then you can multiply this effect by six.
But I want to tell you the history of this legislation, so maybe you can understand why Idaho government is not functioning "at the speed of business" as former Idaho Director of Commerce, Jeff Sayer used to say was his goal.
The TRI started as a brainchild of Roy Lacey (D Pocatello) and Donna Pence (D Gooding) when they were in the Idaho House. The idea was to give companies who come to Idaho and start a business that pays more than the average salary a tax incentive that they could collect later if their promised development pans out. He initially proposed it to promote value added jobs in agriculture in 2012 and 2013. It got good reception from Commerce, the Governor’s office and some committee members, but the House Majority Leader Mike Moyle and Wayne Hoffman came out against it as “picking winners and losers”. It got killed.
Still, Roy worked all summer of 2013 with Sayer and rewrote the idea to include all businesses, based on a Utah model already in place. But Roy and Donna knew the slant of the field they were playing on.
So Sayer took the bill, with the Democrats blessing, to Moyle for the 2014 session and he agreed to sponsor. And it passed! Wayne Hoffman still hates it. But this shows that the Idaho Capitol is not quite the “arena of ideas” Speaker Bedke wants it to be. It seems that whose idea it is, or maybe the party affiliation of the person with the idea has influence.
Shame on us that our representatives are not there to do the peoples work, but instead find party affiliation as a prejudice to the common good. It may be no accident that both Donna and Roy retired from the legislature this last year. I question whether the partisan nature of the legislature serves Idaho.
Is this reflected in small towns? I have heard many constituents in these close communities express reluctance to acknowledge minority party affiliation. I can’t blame them. I’ve lived in this culture. And I’ve also seen minority party members dismiss any idea coming from the other side.
Such stances almost seem tribal. I hope we don’t start hacking each other’s arms off. It’s bad enough that we kill good ideas.