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Posts published in “Hartgen”

Little’s budget


Gov. Brad Little showed more pages of his upcoming proposed budget when he met with several hundred attendees at the annual Idaho taxpayer’s conference in Boise earlier this month. The governor, who has hinted about various items previously, took the opportunity to lay out his thinking in more detail.

The state is in good shape financially. We’re sitting on a surplus of more than $1.6 billion, enough to do some special, long-needed projects that will benefit the state for decades to come.

These include transportation projects such as roads and bridges, improvements in municipal water plants and waste disposal facilities, and the beginning of the statewide network of broadband access. This last item is particularly important in smaller rural communities which do not have the populations to support private expanded service. Yet we all know that in the information age, access is a critical frontline component.

The governor also highlighted the needs in education, including school facilities and holding onto staff. We must keep our wages competitive in this critical sector. If we want a better workforce, we must train it and that means investment.
He also outlined a plan to help businesses immediately by changes in the withholding tax for unemployment reserves. This fund fluctuates with the economy, and Little’s idea is to stabilize it at about $60 million, thereby giving businesses surety and consistency year by year.

He all but demanded the Legislature find and approve a fix for soaring property taxes and he urged yet another reduction in income tax rates and perhaps a rebate from taxes paid in 2021. Just last week, one member of the House leadership team said officials were thinking of a tax cut of about $200 million, and another $200 million in rebates. (IdahoPress, 12/22).

Idaho leads the nation in reducing taxes, but has done so incrementally, which is both prudent and cautious. Nonetheless, another step-down in income tax rates seems likely. What better use of a surplus than to return some of it to those who paid it?
Hard rightists will want to reduce this immediately to zero, as they don’t want to pay for anything. It’s part of their distorted libertarian philosophy that others should pay for all things governmental. Liberals will argue that the state should maintain its current tax levels but it’s obvious from the size of the surplus, there’s room to cut taxes and accomplish other goals as well.

So on the one side, we see hard rightists argue for smaller government, for starving basic services such as public education. On the other side, we see liberals call for more social spending as well as for huge bumps in teacher salaries. Neither of these extremist positions are likely to prevail, and Little knows that a more nuanced middle ground will attract the broadest support.

There will be some disputed aspects of whatever Little sets out. Democrats and their media friends and social service advocates will all push to put more money into a long list of programs. Hard rightists will argue that Idaho should not take any federal money and should essentially squeeze state and government back to some unstated, but smaller, point of time.

These views on the right and left will get respectful listeners, but Idaho has been well served by a more moderate, centrist approach on fiscal matters. They’ll tuck some money into reserve accounts, cover the state’s basic needs, perhaps start a few new initiatives, and then head home by mid-March. That’s when filings for the May 17 primary are due and those who will run again will be itching for face time and shaking hands with local constituents.

The Governor’s budget this year might be termed a MapQuest outline. He showed where he wanted to go, and gave some initial ideas about what route to take to get there. That’s what we expect our state leadership to do: take on major issues and keep us on the overall track.

Little also urged legislators to find a solution to skyrocketing property taxes. There’ve been several attempts in recent years to balance these taxes in a better way, helping those who need it and not overdoing taxes in any one sector. Last year’s efforts were only a partial solution and left important pieces out. The governor is right when he calls on legislators to fix these issues promptly and fairly.

Idaho has a long tradition of centrist/conservative government in which we fund our needs, tuck money away and look at bigger projects as we can afford them. This approach of prudence and caution has given us one of the best economic profiles in the nation, recently upgraded to AAA credit rating. We should stick with these time-proven principles.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Christmas wishes


Is there anyone who hasn’t been impacted this year by the scourge of Covid, which now threatens yet another wave of highly-transmittable sickness across the land? We all know people who have fallen ill, and some of them have not survived. We know families affected in the same way, so for many, it will be a sad holiday of longing, missing and remembrance.

And yet this gloom will pass. People will come out of their self-imposed isolations, rejoin with friends and family, talk to each other in civil tones and respect on social media and politics. The human race will continue as it did in the early 1920s with another rampant infection at another time.

And so will our devotion and faith, born with a child in a manger some 2000 years ago who gave us his life, his grace and his compassion.

It is always good in this season to read Luke 2, which recounts the baby’s birth. The language is sparse, but the meaning is clear. This is the child given by God to save mankind.

Compared to that, the affairs of men fade into unimportance. The baby, born in humble circumstances, is nonetheless the object of praise, first by the lonely shepherds and then by millions around the world.

So it is a good week to do some Christmas things. We should put some classical Bach on our devices, attend at least one Christmas service with carols, and participate in the rituals of gift giving and receiving. And of course wish our neighbors well and welcome our families home from afar.

Two weeks ago, the annual Christmas concert was held at the College of Southern Idaho. These old carols are not just good memories; they also reinforce our personal faith. Many of them are packed with sound religious principles.

Like many other aspects of American life, hymn worship is changing rapidly. It’s uncommon today to hear these old hymns which have now been replaced with modern Praise music and lyrics.

I’m not knocking the Praise songs of today, but I, like many others I know, hold onto the memories of past Christmas music and rituals. Perhaps we would be a better nation if we sang those more often, and together. We might argue less by doing so.

We cannot make the country better only by wishing it were so. One of he aspects of modern life is that it takes so much energy. People are left with bitterness and enormous anxiety just navigating our daily lives. Anger and blaming abound everywhere, particularly in politics and social media.

In this great land we call America, there’s a place for each of us. Surely that is what the baby later taught, do unto others as you would have them unto you. We know this lesson but it is not always easy to act upon it.

Christ’s presence in our lives is often remembered most during the Christmas holiday. That’s as it should be even in these contentious times. The picture we carry is that of the Christ child in the stable, the cattle lowing, the shepherds kneeling below a bright star’s light.

That is the image we carry with when we worship, though it be in a distant land far away. We are in a stone church ruin from Medieval times, a Viking chapel on the edge of the known world, about to sail to another shore.

So this season, I remember the joys of Christmas, past but not forgotten, of the infant Christ in a manger outside of town with cattle, shepards and adoring parents. The world is a better place each year because of this baby and what he brought to mankind. We should never forget that. ”For unto us a child is given.”

Merry Christmas, all.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Winder and Labrador


Former Congressman Raul Labrador and Idaho Senate leader Chuck Winder recently gave two contrasting views of the Idaho Republican Party and where it is headed.

To Winder, who has been increasingly vocal in his defense of traditional Republican principles and civility, the party is dangerously close to being taken over by authoritarian rightists and ideological purists who care more for a checklist of adherences to ideology than for practical solutions.

Labrador sees it differently. He served several terms in Congress before taking on Lt. Gov. Brad Little in 2018 for the governor’s chair. He lost that three-way election and came home to Idaho to survey the political landscape and mark his time. At age 53, he will have plenty of shots at higher office. A few weeks ago, he declared to run against long-time incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. With Janice McGeachin’s gubernatorial campaign now a poster example of “The Walking Dead,” Labrador is likely to inherit the de-facto leadership of Idaho’s rightists.

Labrador was an outspoken member of the House Freedom Caucus while in Congress and many on the right wanted him to be the next Idaho governor. He represents a more ideological strain within the GOP, with a focus more on ideologies, libertarianism, and an often impractical reading of the US and Idaho Constitutions. The caucus recently announced that it would push similar ideologies at the state and local level. (Fox, 12/1)

Winder is no lefty, much less a RINO, but he sees government as an entity to tackle real problems and find solutions, whether it’s in transportation, education or state social services. He looks for ways forward, for improving the state. He doesn’t spend time in theoretical discussions about sovereignty, nullification, much less secession from the national union. To Winder, making Idaho a better place to work and live for our children and grandchildren is paramount.

Their different perspectives is partly a generational shift. Winder, who is in his 70s, spoke of “Idaho’s core values,” identifying them as “faith, family and country” along with lower taxes, a strong business climate, strong schools and school choice. He also highlighted opposition to drug legalization; support for police and other first responders; pushing back against federal regulation while also collaborating where possible to “make our public lands safer and better managed;” and providing opportunities for the next generation in Idaho.” (IdahoPress,11/7)

Labrador, 53, said he believes the future of the Republican Party is strong, pointing to the gubernatorial election in Virginia. “Regular people are looking at how far left the Democratic Party is going and realizing that Republicans believe in small government, in less interference with business, less interference with private decisions between parents and their children in their schools, and they believe in autonomy, and they believe that the government should have as small a role in the lives of individuals as possible,” he said. (IdahoPress, 11/7).

That last phrase is telling. What Labrador means when he says as small a role as possible really comes down to abdication of responsible civic leadership. Under this theory, drugs are okay, prostitution is okay, jails should be emptied, and social programs including education and welfare should be left to the private sector. If individuals suffer, well too bad. And by the way, under this model who pays for the roads to policing, economic development, or schools because these folks don’t want to pay any taxes for anything?

But both are civil leaders and spoke civilly with each other. There was no ranting or personal calumny or insulting remarks. They’re both grown-ups, unlike the juvenile House mice who make points while putting down others. This sneering has driven many common-sense Idaho Republicans out of party politics or at least to the sidelines until these vapors dissipate.

Some of these malcontents see themselves as a new generation of leaders and they think they will get there by painting governor Little and others as befuddled RINOs and toadies of the establishment. This group of includes Heather Scott, Priscilla Giddings, Dorothy Moon, Ron Nate, Kerry Hanks, Tammy Nichols, Chad Christiansen and state Sen. Christy Zito.

They take much of their ideology from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which is partly funded by out-of-state oligarchs who usually want something of monetary value. The new national initiative fits well into their rhetoric as they try to reform American “freedom” in to a mass of slogans.

The presentation by Labrador and Winder in their talk is outlined in detail by Idaho Press reporter Betsy Russell, who includes lengthy quotes from both men in their talk to the Boise City Club. (IdahoPress, 11/7).

Not everyone is as civil as Labrador and Winder were to each other. In county parties across the state, there are often mean-spirited and personal attacks, mostly from the libertarians. It’s a technique stolen from activist lefties, such as Saul Alinsky, whom Democrats widely admire.

In county after county in Idaho, the ugliness and disrespect of this approach can be seen at monthly county GOP meetings and in the ideological tangents they propose as legislation. Common-sense Republicans are ridiculed as not being pure enough, i.e. Republicans in name only, or RINOs.

Will any of this need to a better state, more jobs, safe and secure communities? Some even want to dismantle public schools. Here’s a question: how’s that for leadership for our next generation and beyond?

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

The Giddings case


It took less than a minute a week ago Monday for the Idaho House to vote to leave in place the censorship of Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, for conduct “unbecoming of a legislator” for outing a 19-year-old sexual assault victim.

For a deliberative body that often takes things slowly, the two hours of debate preceding the vote was taken up mostly by Giddings’ supporters. They mostly cited her military record but ignored her own actions that brought her to this point.

These appeals didn’t stir many votes if any from the coalition of centrist Republicans and Democrats who saw through Giddings’ fake arguments that she had done nothing wrong in posting the young woman’s picture and personal life details on her legislative newsletter.

Other supporters had previously tried to make the case that the young intern was voluntarily involved with a 38-year-old now former legislator, who just happened to be one of the hard rightists and House monkey wrench gang. That’s because the facts of the case are clear, and Giddings made no effort at contrition.

The 49 to 19 vote margin was wider than many expected, given the intense right wing pressure legislators got from the peanut gallery of conspiracy theories and distorted politics. That margin in itself should tell Idaho citizens that the Legislature is running out of steam when it comes to strident appeals of ideology. (Lewiston Tribune, 11/18)

Giddings took the vote as a challenge, defiantly saying that being removed from a committee would just give her more time in her busy schedule as she runs for Idaho’s Lt. Gov. position. But you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes here to see the House vote as perhaps a highwater mark of radical politics in the Idaho Republican Party.

Yes, some of those voting to uphold the censure will draw primary challenges, as they were threatened in postings. It’s the nature of these harpies and their followers to intimidate others when they don’t get their way. Loud, vicious, and mean-spirited. But the censure supporters probably would have been tarred anyway, given the rifts between party ideologues and party centrists. A vote against Giddings was a line in the sand, but a needed one.

Giddings’ explanation for her postings struck many as pure revenge against the young intern. Why was Giddings protecting another rightist legislator who has now been charged with rape? She and others on the far right leave that question untouched.

As the three-day session wound down on November 17, the hard rightists tried once again to get the last word. Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, asked for “unanimous consent” for three minutes to make a speech presumably on the failures of the session. But he was objected to, and that was that; legislators snatched up their laptops and headed home. With former Rep. Luke Malek dropping out of the Lt. Gov. contest, that leaves Giddings with little chance against House Speaker Scott Bedke.

The race now is likely to send Giddings to Idaho’s political history as an angry and losing charlatan. Even Giddings’ running mate, Janice McGeachin, saw the session as “incredibly disappointing” and blamed it all on “conservative Idaho voters (who) were betrayed by cowardly RINOs who chose to sell their souls….” (11/22).

Maybe. But our guess is that people have heard enough of McGeachin, Giddings, Nate and the other malcontents in the Legislature who spent most of last year promoting bizarre theories of government and complaining about state and federal overreach.

If anything, the wide vote margin on the Giddings ethics issue shows that many legislators looked at the facts rather than the emotion of the case. Some 24 legislators had previously signed a complaint against Giddings, and the fence-sitters doubled that number.

Some losses are worse than some victories. These fence-sitters knew they would likely get primary challenges in secret efforts against them by the Idaho Slavery Foundation, but a no vote here would have been worse signal to state voters overall.

Supporting Giddings really came down to whether legislators would give themselves a free pass for further harming a sexual assault victim. As one legislator put it, what Giddings did was just plain wrong.

This sordid conclusion will leave the hard rightists looking for new ways to raise havoc. All their ranting resulted in just one nonbinding resolution opposing vaccine mandates from the federal government, a position Idaho is already taking in joining a court suit.

When push came to shove, almost 50 House members stood by their own committee’s decision on Giddings and in the case of the other actions, left poorly-drafted fruitcake bills Dead on Arrival. With redistricting shaking up many of the state’s legislative seats, the malcontents will certainly try to pick off more centrist senators and install more kookies in both bodies. But make no mistake, this was a clear, three days of defeat for the Idaho Slavery Foundation and their puppies.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Many blessings


September marked my 77th birthday and Thursday this week being Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to reminisce a bit on life’s many blessings, twists and turns.

It’s been a chaotic year for everyone, what with the pandemic and all. I’ve had some health issues of my own and lost my brother David and Linda’s brother Randy. For the past eight years, since 2013, I’ve walked with the help of a cane and more recently, a walker or wheelchair, the lingering result of a viral infection which has affected my balance and limited my mobility, but not my mind. I don’t think of myself as disabled or impaired in any way.

If I have “world enough and time,” as the poem says, I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing. I’ve been a college professor, a journalist, a newspaper editor/publisher, a business consultant, an elected state legislator, and now, a blog columnist and community historian in the Magic Valley. It’ a comfortable list.

I’ve lived in Southern Idaho almost forty years now and while not a perfect place, it has nonetheless been mostly a delight. The physical landscape is immense and the people mostly kind, generous and hard-working. It reflects the way America generally was before the country was overrun by near-constant discord of political correctness and identity politics. Here, we’re still a valley of farms, ranches, quiet towns and a shared base of conservative cultural values. How rare and special is that?

Since retiring from the Legislature in 2018 due to health issues, I have two new books out on the various cultural aspects of Southern Idaho life, and another underway. These follow a personal memoir in 2014 and several journalism books on reporting, as well as biographies of both my parents, Vincent Hartgen and Frances Hartgen.

I’ve been a writer most of my adult life, so I think I’ll stick with it. Ernest Hemingway once said that his goal as a novelist was to write one truly perfect sentence. I doubt I’ll ever make that standard, but I keep trying.
But none of this is as important as family, place and remembrance, living in this magnificent rural valley of Idaho, a land of freedom, energy and progress. Linda and I have five children between us and a passel of grandkids as well, rambunctious, curious, verbal, loving, all out to make something of themselves in this world. They are close, but not on our doorstep; both are part of the continual joy of grand-parenting.

My stream wading days are over, but I love to mentally fish Idaho’s pristine trout waters and to read American history. I particularly favor accounts of the American West, it’s rich legends and vigorous settlement, the courage and determination of its people in this vast and enduring landscape. It is the Magic Valley story, the Idaho story and the American story of this great country.

As I age, life’s more visceral past contests fade in importance; they were only sound and fury, as Shakespeare calls them, signifying nothing. Ecclesiastes tells us that no one knows when we may be summoned to a distant stream, when one’s spirit returns unto God, who gave it. In any case, I have many blessings. Here are a few:

A childhood of delightful memories in a safe and warm place on the edge of a deep, natural forest, a lens through which I have seen the world in most every circumstance;
Loving parents whose own efforts made the world a better place for those around them, a mother who helped others with sympathy and grace and a father who in his own art and teaching, opened people’s eyes to the world of beauty and human ennoblement;

An education at schools better than I had any right to attend and from which I was able to extract some, if not all, of what they had to offer, sometimes in counterpoint;

A life of the mind developed from an early age, nurtured by parents and then by myself in quiet hours and moments, overcoming each day’s hustings;

A long search and then a settling in what seems like “God’s country” of the West, in the presence of daily beauty, the flow of crystalline water, the crisp green of spring farms and range;

The blessing to live in the best region, in the best state, in the best nation on the planet, in freedom and opportunity, where love of country abounds. If freedom is to be found anywhere, surely Southern Idaho is one such place;

A flowering of family warmth and love and a spouse and partner whose dedication to the “us” of our marriage and to our faith has helped my own faith grow as we age;

A renewal in my sixties and seventies of public service and involvement, through both public office and appreciation of my community, giving me a chance to lead through the challenges of public life;

A gift of friendships bound by common purpose to make our community, state and nation a better place for generations ahead;

Reasonable health, despite setbacks and conditions. Yes, I have chronic ailments, but so do many others. So what? It is a blessing indeed to do what I can do. Each of us should be thankful for the inner strength God has given each of us.

Scripture tells us to be constantly ready, as we cannot know the hour of the calling. That’s good advice. But we should all take time here as well to count our blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to all! Now, about that turkey!

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at A version of this column has been published annually since 2014.

A solid credit score


Of course you missed it because, well, good news never gets the play it should. But a recent report shows Idaho took another jump upward in its state credit rating, from AA+ to AAA, one of only a few states in the nation with that superior designation.

Naysayers will either downplay the rating or ignore it because it doesn’t fit their narrative of “Drain the Swamp” in Boise. But the new rating from Fitch shows Idaho is already doing many of the prudent, responsible, and fiscally conservative practices which mark it as a national leader.

Public entity credit ratings are somewhat like individual ones. They reflect both savings and spending habits, measured by such metrics as policies, stability of reserves, careful and planned cash flows as well things like political environment, conservative social policies and rainy day set-asides. (FitchRatings, 11/4).

Stability of policies is an important trait, as it reflects long-term intent by governing bodies. Increasingly, states are being held to “social” behavior when it comes to investing and debt. States which have long ignored these basic measurements, pay higher borrowing rates than prudent states like Idaho.

It’s not unlike your personal credit rating. Potential lenders look at things like your driving record, your debt-to-income ratios, and your lifestyle patterns in determining the amount and rate of your loan application. Some are very strict; others not so much.

In a statement on Fitch’s Idaho report, Gov. Brad Little credited Idaho’s long history of solid economic and responsible patterns of public finance. Think for a minute what your bank would say if you came in for loan but had a credit rating that wasn’t at a high enough level. They would tell you to find ways to cut costs, increase revenue, or both.
And they would look at your history of credit over time, whether you’re buying a new car, a mortgage on a new home, or an operating loan for your farm or commercial business.

Without good credit, your chances of getting a loan you want would diminish, just like it would in your personal history.

This is yet another reason why Idahoans should look past the “Sky is Falling” rhetoric of far rightists running for public office. If you listen carefully, they really don’t have any idea of how to grow the state economy or the necessary investments needed for long-term stability.

We should expect our candidates to demonstrate clear and forward-looking proposals rather than simply whining about what a terrible life we have here down here on the farm. It is truly amazing in the state where solid credit is such an important fiscal feature that so many Idahoans would pay any attention to the charlatans on the right.

And it’s a good exercise to think about Idaho’s economy in the future if we were to elect these folks. You would likely see Idaho’s economic progress stall and then go into reverse. What national business would want to come to a state led by nativist and racist prejudicial politicians, by legislators who cruelly and willfully outed a sexual assault victim? What business now here would long stay if these were our faces on national television?

And what about businesses that may be looking to come to Idaho? They’ll quietly drop us from the prospect list like a hot potato if they see the state’s leaders exhibit such demeaning positions. It would be great to be a fly on the wall listening in on a conversation between business executives and Janice McGeachin, Priscilla Giddings or Dorothy Moon trying to recruit them to Idaho. Good luck with that.

The Fitch rating for Idaho as AAA is both a mark of our past diligence as well as a reality check of where we could go with extremist political leadership. A vote for these folks is to send Idaho backward, along with its stellar credit rating.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at


Better times ahead


Lo and behold, the Idaho economy isn’t going anywhere except up and to the bank. Whiners and complainers want you to think all we need to do is “drain the swamp” in Boise and things will be sunrise and roses.

But the real numbers show Idaho is already doing fine on the economic front. Almost $170 million in taxpayer rebates have gone out to Idaho taxpayers this year.

In a recent report to the Legislature’s joint finance and appropriations committee, Alex Adams from the division of financial management summarize the numbers in public testimony. Checks went out to nearly 645,000 Idaho income taxpayers this year, rebates based on income taxes paid in 2020. Last session, the Legislature added another $220 million in one-time income tax rebates and $163 million in ongoing income savings. (IdahoPress, 10, 22). And this is on top of an earlier tax rebate.

These tax reductions helped Idaho achieve back-to-back tax returns in consecutive years, as well as provide ongoing rate drops. These may not seem to be a lot, but over time, they’re substantial.

The take of the malcontents is that Idaho is struggling on every front, that the economy is in the tank and that there’s no progress anywhere. This is patent BS, designed to lead you into thinking things terrible when they’re not.

This line is pushed by these economic Medievalists who think it’s ok for you and your children to live in poverty while they reap the rewards of connections to out-of-state money and influence peddlers. It is truly amazing that common-sense people in Idaho would fall for such horse-pucky.

Why is Idaho done so well in coming out of the pandemic and leading the nation in economic growth? One reason certainly is the population increase. We’re up more than 250,000 people in 10 years, second only to Utah’s growth. More people in Idaho translate into more jobs, higher paychecks, and more state withholding. For the current financial year which began on July1, state revenue is up yet again. If Gov. Brad Little asks the Legislature for the third round of tax reductions, that would cement Idaho’s national rankings in income growth.

Even in a pandemic, people buy food and household goods and these sales also push up state receipts. That’s given additional weight with the shift to online sales and the keeping of the tax on out-of-state purchases as well as convenience store stop-and-goes.

If you sit half an hour at a local truck-stop or convenience store, you’ll quickly see out-of-state plates on vehicles as their drivers come out with all range of snacks and travel drinks. These account for substantial portion of the so-called “grocery tax.” Without such seemingly small purchases, our sales tax receipts would be considerably less.

It used to be that Idaho, an agricultural state with great scenery and natural resources, was somehow stuck in a traditional industries past. But everywhere you look today you see startups, expansions, services, tourism and other sectors beyond extensive food processing. Now, we are really coming-of-age with a mixed economy in a broad mix of sectors.

To be sure, the state has some distance to go. Our educational system needs to turn out more and better-trained workers. But many states would do well to look at Idaho’s ability to slash income tax rates and still grow the economy almost everywhere.

That was the real message in Adams’ presentation to the legislators. He is saying in effect, that what we’re doing is working. We are taking care of state needs but we’re not spending beyond what we have. That gives us a nice surplus state budget of close to $1.5 billion.

It would be wise not to fritter that away but rather to spend money carefully and cautiously on things with lasting shelf-life, such as infrastructure, roads and bridges, community water and sewer systems and broadband deliverability.

Gov. Little in his various talks this fall constantly mentions his vision for the state as a robust participant in the Northwest and American economy.

Some of his critics want more red tape to put people under more extensive government control. Others want to reduce services to bare minimums or eliminate them entirely.

These Dead-Enders would lead us to exactly that, a dead-end of economic retraction. We see that in other states where natural resources languish despite proximity to markets.

If that’s the kind of place we want Idaho to be, it’s easy to achieve by either just doing nothing or by spending money we don’t have. Wisely, we’ve picked a middle ground of cautious and prudent spending and strategic investment. That’s the Idaho way. People will know this spring which path we chose. So will our children, grandchildren and generations yet to come.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

McGeachin’s unfitness


That whooshing sound you hear is the air going out of the McGeachin campaign balloon for governor, evident by her ham-handed interchange with the national news network CNN, the resulting deflation in Idaho and new questions about her basic knowledge of state government.

McGeachin calls attention to herself on many occasions. Her picture with two armed militant thugs at her office door immediately following her 2018 election was a clear indication of who she would listen to. And she has.

She followed that with hiring a known law-enforcement hater as a security staffer. The individual, Parish Miller, is the cop critic behind the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s rankings of legislative measures. He had a post in which he effectively said it was okay for citizens to murder police. (DailyBeast, 7/25/2021)

But that was just as her campaign was getting going last spring. These days, she headed a do-nothing, self-created task force find examples of critical race theory, social engineering and the evils of communism allegedly being taught in Idaho schools. It turned up nothing.

Then there was her ignorant exchange with the CNN reporter who asked a simple question about her issuing executive orders while the governor is out-of-state on official business. When the reporter pressed her for her logic, she called him an activist and declared the interview at an end, turned on her heels and stomped out. She came across as a disgruntled child, defensive and shaken, a witch of the first order. (CNN, 10/10)

We’re no particular fan of media-in-your-face confrontations, but in this case McGeachin brought the result on herself. The painted lady is already swimming in an ocean of sharks. If you can’t say why you issued a particular executive order, why should people think you would exercise good judgment otherwise?

Just last week, McGeachin raised more questions about her competence when she admitted she didn’t have records showing the actual costs of the $50,000 alleged expenses of so-called legal fees she wants the taxpayers to foot.

McGeachin has a long track record of trying to extract more money from the state to fund her office. Perhaps the legal records don’t really exist. Are they just another McGeachin ploy to sweep up state money? Just asking. Members of the legislature’s Joint Finance & Appropriations Committee are already asking for more records from her office, as is the state Division of Financial Management. (CapitalSun, 10/18).By Wednesday, the records if they exist, had not been turned over.

And that’s where you can feel the air going out of the McGeachin campaign balloon. No one came to her defense, not even the crazies with whom she associates in the House or the John Birchers, whose members believe that President Dwight Eisenhower was a communist plant in American government.

McGeachin uses words like sovereignty, traditional values and freedom as “platform” points, but she seems to have no real understanding of any of these traditional Republican principles except as slogans. When asked about her, former Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones referred to her as the only Lieutenant Governor which Idaho has ever had who qualifies as an “idiot.”

Only slightly less generous was a recent column by political observer Chuck Malloy who up to now has treated her as a legitimate challenger to Gov. Brad Little. But in his column (CapitalSun, 10/12), Malloy relates how McGechin changed following her time in the House (2008-2012) where she was a competent if not leading legislator.

So what happened? It appears McGeachin went back to Idaho Falls to run a bar and began participating in local rightist politics, emerging in 2018 primary election in which she got less than 29% of the vote in a five-way contest. But that was enough. Since then, she has had one gaffe after another and has demonstrated repeatedly that she’s not ready, and may never be ready, for higher office.

The rightists in the House may not agree that she’s an idiot, but they’re not going to stand up time after time with her as she makes a fool of herself on national television and within her own state, with what Malloy calls “showboating” and a “stunt.”

They know intuitively that with an election coming, Janice McGeachin is drawing only small groups of ardent followers. A recent “freedom” rally in Twin Falls brought fewer than 80 people, probably half of whom were her handlers, law enforcement or media.
You can feel it in the political air as alternatives to McGeachin to challenge Little are suddenly getting “second looks.” These down-ticket also-rans are now fighting to gain visibility, media time, and contributions.

Little stretches his fundraising lead to nearly $400,000 over McGeachin ($500,000 to $100,000) and she’s fallen to third place in fundraising. Not a good sign if you’re trying to be the established candidate of the angry unestablished.

In today’s rough-and-tumble media and politics world, candidates need to demonstrate basic media competence. Her CNN pouty walk-off shows just the opposite. Wise political candidates and officeholders know the power of the media, and CNN, no friend of right-wingers or even Republicans, has opened the door for people to see what McGeachin is really like.

She had a great opportunity on CNN to enhance her viability as a candidate for Idaho’s governor, but she muffed it. Lots of folks saw it live on television and she doesn’t come across well. It’s football season, so we’ll call it what it is, a missed clutch kick to the far right.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

The Delta flights


It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who flies in and out of Twin Falls or other Southern Idaho airports that Delta Air Lines is trimming its Salt Lake daily flights from three flights to one for Twin Falls. The COVID pandemic has affected the airline industry all across the country as fewer people fly and the airlines have imposed mask restrictions and other measures.

Sure it’s a loss but probably a temporary one. Flights in and out of Twin Falls have varied over the decades, rising and falling with customer demand and the overall economy. The same pattern exists for other small regional markets. The new alternative flight to and from Denver siphoned off some eastbound travelers who previously were changing planes in Salt Lake City and sometimes again to get to the East Coast.

The airline industry has had to reshape flight schedules and frequencies all over the country. Western smaller communities such as Twin Falls, have been among those hurt the most because they’re often farther away from Boise or other regional hubs such as Spokane.

Losing flights is no community picnic, but is mostly one of temporary inconvenience.We see this same pattern in other Western communities with similar smaller airports and long distances to the closest hubs. These locations have suffered similar ups and downs over the decades. Just this year, for example, flights in and out of Pocatello were reduced, while air traffic to Idaho Falls has remained steady, and Lewiston picked up additional air service direct to and from Denver.

Years ago when airlines were subsidized by tax dollars to serve smaller communities, there were bigger planes but often little frequency. With the ending of airline subsidization, airlines have had to make difficult choices on which cities to serve and how often. That affects airports directly.

Other factors have played an influence here too, beyond the COVID pandemic. More fuel-efficient planes, often with extra seating, allows airlines to shape flight patterns to meet changing demands and conditions.

To some degree we saw the same during the economic contraction in the 2008 – 2011 recession. As that contraction lessened, flights returned to Twin Falls and its major hub, Salt Lake City. Boardings and freight both took a hit and certainly, customer convenience and amenities declined.

On the upside, the current economic environment gave airlines the ability to drop most “pet” and “emotional support” animals as flying partners, which was a good thing. If you’ve flown next to a yapping toy dog or a meowing cat, you know true annoyance. People were taking advantage of the pet rule as a way of saving money and get fie-fie on a flight without putting fie-fie in the cargo hold. The airlines put up with this for too long and new restrictions are a welcome change.

As to the future, no one should worry that the flights to and from Salt Lake City will return. They will, as the economy improves, the pandemic lessens and business and convenience travel pick up again. In the meantime, we still have a daily flight to and from Salt Lake, as well as the new Denver connection.

These two represent about what the Magic Valley can support currently. You can still fly pretty much anywhere by boarding in Twin Falls, which has free parking, and a modern terminal that befits the size of the market.

The city, the airlines, and economic development efforts have all made it clear that air service to this smaller community in the West will continue and they deserve credit for staying with it despite challenges.

The Magic Valley is still more than hundred miles from Boise and almost twice that far from Salt Lake City. That distance hasn’t changed. The geography of location means that were subject to changing transportation patterns. They affect cities large and small, including Boise and Twin Falls. So take heart, Southern Idahoans. We’ll get the flights back. We just don’t know when.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at