Writings and observations

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

Linking Idaho to Abraham Lincoln’s four greatest speeches, David H. Leroy – former Idaho lieutenant governor/attorney general who has collected 1,500 historic Lincoln-related items – said the nation’s leaders in Washington would be wise to study and respect the U.S. Constitution as did America’s 16th president.

Lincoln signed the bill creating the Idaho Territory on March 4, 1863, effectively blocking the spread of slavery to the West during the Civil War. Idaho’s gold and silver mines, in turn, helped finance the Union’s war against the Confederacy.

Lincoln appointed Idaho’s first three territorial judges, including Samuel Parks who had practiced law in the same Illinois courts as Lincoln. The Republican president mentioned the Idaho Territory in his State of the Union addresses to Congress in 1863 and 1864 and approved the name “Idaho” for the territory.

lincoln

Leroy told the City Club of Idaho Falls that those in the federal government’s executive and legislative branches need to focus on their constitutionally defined roles as the nation once again finds itself divided.

Speaking at the club’s June 13 annual dinner about Lincoln and the birth of Idaho, Leroy said individual rights and the concept of privacy need to be jealously guarded. In response to a question, he urged elected officials to comply with the oaths they take to uphold and defend the Constitution, which underwent a severe crisis during the Civil War.

A Republican and practicing attorney in Boise, Leroy served as Idaho’s 28th attorney general from 1979 to 1983. He was the Gem State’s 36th lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987 and unsuccessfully ran for governor against Cecil Andrus in 1986. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed him U.S. nuclear waste negotiator, a position he held for three years.

Leroy chaired the 2009 Idaho Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. When the Idaho History Center in Boise opens a “Lincoln Legacy” exhibit in September, it will permanently display books, letters, photos, relics, paintings, cartoons, statuary and campaign items donated from the extensive collection of Leroy and his wife Nancy.

“After 45 years traveling the breadth and length of the land, I suggest to people that Idaho more than any other state is related to Abraham Lincoln,” Leroy said, even more so than Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana.

In 1913, a University of Oxford vice chancellor in Great Britain listed the three greatest speeches ever given in the history of the English language. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address were two of the three, Leroy noted.

In February 1860, Lincoln delivered his Cooper Union speech to a capacity crowd of 1,500 in New York and noted that 21 of the 39 signers of the Constitution believed Congress should control slavery in the territories and not allow it to spread. At the time, the nation was in danger of splitting apart.

“What is the frame of government under which we live? The answer must be: ‘The Constitution of the United States.’ That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787, (and under which the present government first went into operation,) and 12 subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of which were framed in 1789.”

leroy lincoln
David Leroy, center, converses with David Adler, left, and C. Timothy Hopkins at a City Club of Idaho Falls function.

He concluded that speech by saying, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.” His speech electrified the audience and built momentum for his nomination as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.

If not for a man with future Idaho ties, however, that speech easily could have bombed miserably, and history would have changed, Leroy said. The basement auditorium was not well-designed for public speaking. Large pillars blocked views, and its ceiling was low.

Lincoln, who stood 6 feet 4 inches, initially came across as ungainly and awkward. “He was an odd looking duck,” Leroy said, noting he also had a high pitched voice with a western twang.

At first, Lincoln was nervous, didn’t project his voice and poorly enunciated words, losing the crowd. Mason Brayman, an Illinois attorney and friend of Lincoln, stood in the back and raised a hat on a cane to encourage Lincoln, whose voice then became loud and his eyes animated.

Following the speech, the crowd leapt to its feet in enthusiastic approval, ensuring his party’s presidential nomination three months later. Leroy said 150,000 copies of that speech were widely circulated, making Lincoln a national phenomenon. On July 24, 1876, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Brayman as Idaho territorial governor, a position he held for four years.

On Feb. 11, 1861, Lincoln gave a brief, emotional farewell address to friends and neighbors at the Great Western Depot in Springfield, Ill., prior to traveling to Washington to assume the presidency. It, too, is considered one of his most important speeches.

“My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

Fred Dubois, a son of Lincoln’s Springfield friend, Jesse Dubois, was 10 when Lincoln gave his farewell address. He often played with Lincoln’s young sons and lived across the street from the family. In 1880, Fred moved to the Idaho Territory with his brother Jesse, a doctor.

In 1882, Dubois was appointed U.S. marshal for the Idaho Territory. He launched a successful campaign to disenfranchise Mormon voters in the territory on grounds they broke the law by practicing polygamy. After Idaho became a state in July 1890, Dubois served as a Republican U.S. senator for six years.

After he was defeated, he returned to his Blackfoot alfalfa farm. He was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 1900 and switched to the Democratic Party in 1901. He remains the only person in Idaho history to serve in Congress as both a Republican and a Democrat.

Ward Hill Lamon was Lincoln’s bodyguard when the president delivered his most famous speech – the two-minute Gettysburg Address — on Nov. 19, 1863, at the Pennsylvania battleground where Union armies decisively defeated Confederate troops 4½ months earlier. Lincoln appointed Lamon U.S. marshal of the District of Columbia shortly after his inauguration in 1861.

On assignment in Richmond, Va., to oversee the surrender of Confederate troops, Lamon was not in Washington on the night of April 14, 1865, when Lincoln was assassinated. He was “absolutely disconsolate” upon learning of Lincoln’s death, Leroy said. After the assassination, Lamon accompanied the funeral procession to Springfield.

Leroy noted that after Lamon resigned his U.S. marshal post in 1865, he approached President Andrew Johnson and asked to be appointed governor of the Idaho Territory. Lincoln’s successor declined to do so.

William H. Wallace, first governor of the Idaho Territory, attended Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, at the Capitol.

Lincoln concluded that magnanimous speech by saying: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

Six weeks after the speech on Friday afternoon, April 14, Wallace personally
asked Lincoln at the White House to appoint him to fill a vacancy on the Idaho Supreme Court.

Lincoln told Wallace to return on Monday and he would have the appointment. He also invited Wallace and his wife to accompany the Lincolns to Ford’s Theatre that evening, but Wallace declined. The rest is history.

Huffmans

Ethan Huffman and his mother Carol Huffman discuss historic Lincoln-related items from David Leroy’s collection.

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Idaho Mendiola

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

The Idahoans who called into U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s town hall teleconference Wednesday night, May 22, virtually all expressed concerns about the federal government’s increasingly intrusive actions that they fear are eroding their constitutional rights.

The nation’s debt crisis, the Internal Revenue Service, Obamacare, illegal immigration, the U.S. Farm Bill and gun control were among the hot button topics touched upon during the hour long call-in event.

Crapo noted that the U.S. national debt now approaches $17 trillion with Washington doing little to brake torrid deficit spending. “Entitlement programs all are screaming toward insolvency. We have a significant battle in front of us the next few months,” he said. “We’re seeing one-to-two trillion dollars in new taxes hitting the American people.”

President Obama successfully has pushed dozens of taxing and spending increases via different bills without tax and entitlement reforms getting enacted, the Republican said, noting there is a tremendous amount of gridlock in the nation’s capital.

“Our Social Security is going full speed toward insolvency, which means not just our children and grandchildren, but everybody … is going to see their benefits dramatically reduced,” Crapo said. Medicare also is heading for bankruptcy sooner than Social Security, and Medicaid is not far behind.

The “unfair, complex and expensive” U.S. tax code badly needs reform, he said, adding tax rates could be lowered by broadening the tax base and eliminating abusive tax loopholes.

Crapo served on the Bowles-Simpson National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and was among the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators charged with resolving the debt ceiling crisis. He also serves on Senate banking and finance committees.

Crapo said he grilled Treasury Secretary Jack Lew about whether the IRS’ income tax audits of hundreds of conservative political and religious groups was politically motivated. Lew appeared before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

Noting he has called for an independent special prosecutor to investigate the IRS scandal, Crapo said: “I will do everything I can to stop this from being covered up.” Both Democrat and Republican senators “are not going to drop this any time soon until we get to the bottom of this,” he added, saying deep layers are involved.

Crapo predicted an independent prosecutor also will be engaged to determine the truth of what happened Sept. 11, 2012, when an American ambassador and three other Americans were murdered at the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. He accused the Obama administration of conducting a “complete disinformation campaign” to deny it was an act of terror.

“The House of Representatives will not let this slide and will investigate to the fullest extent,” he said.

When a man from Spirit Lake said he is worried about the IRS enforcing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” after the IRS was shown to target conservatives on an enemies list. “This is like a death sentence,” he said, wondering if the IRS will determine who gets life-saving medical treatment.

“You raise a very serious concern,” Crapo said, explaining although the legislation does not give the IRS the ability to control doctors, it does put the federal agency in charge of enforcing compliance and creates an entirely new division, requiring the hiring of “thousands and thousands of new IRS agents.”

The IRS will collect, maintain and monitor information on all Americans to make sure they obtain appropriate health care insurance. “I personally believe this is another huge intrusion by the federal government. It adds insult to injury.”

The senator reassured one senior Pocatello citizen that people who turn 70 will not lose their medical care or be refused treatment under Obamacare.

In response to a question posed by a Boisean, Crapo said “another huge overreach occurring at the federal government level” is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was “passed by the president and his allies to establish an entire new regulatory regime.”

The bureau’s jurisdiction includes banks, credit unions, insurance companies, securities firms, pay day lenders, mortgage-servicing operations, foreclosure relief services and other financial companies. Obama’s controversial appointment during last January’s congressional recess of Richard Cordray to direct the CFPB has drawn fire from Republicans, who challenge its constitutionality.

Without an executive board, only one individual directs the bureau, which issues its own rules, does not report to Congress and boasts a direct line to hundreds of millions of Federal Reserve dollars. Crapo mentioned he is sponsoring legislation to audit the Federal Reserve, which he said has never been audited. “The bottom line is the United States should control its own currency.”

The CFPB is collecting information about credit card, bank account and mortgage transactions, Crapo said. “It has been collecting financial information on individual Americans. … I hope Americans across the country start speaking up about this.”

When asked how citizens can make a difference, Crapo suggested contacting their congressional delegates, joining large organizations that support their beliefs and sounding off on social media sites. “Grassroots politics really does still work.”

Crapo agreed with one man who said new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regulations hurt middle class borrowers. “As we have approached the mortgage crisis in the country, the solutions in some cases seem to be backwards,” he said, adding he hopes reforms will be in effect within the next several months. “If we don’t fix this, we could go right back into another mortgage crisis.”

Crapo said he has not decided yet how he will vote on the pending Farm Bill and 840-page immigration reform bill until he can study their details. The Farm Bill is critically important to many Idahoans, and “all Americans are aware we face an immigration crisis in America,” he said, adding he wants to ensure that illegal aliens do not take jobs and benefits from U.S. citizens.

A woman in Boise said she is concerned that millions of people who have come illegally into the United States will become eligible for federal benefits, including food stamps, welfare and earned income tax credits paid for by American taxpayers. Crapo also was asked if food stamps will be cut drastically under the new Farm Bill.

Crapo said he strongly opposes gun control legislation introduced in the Senate that would deprive Americans of their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. He said record ammunition purchases by federal agencies are “raising a lot of eyebrows” and have caused shortages for law enforcement.

On a personal note, Crapo said his election campaign’s recently disclosed inadvertent loss of $250,000 was very discouraging and distressing. He said law enforcement authorities were notified and steps taken to ensure such an incident never recurs.

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Idaho Mendiola

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

A version of this article originally appeared in Green Markets.

The Bureau of Land Management has given Monsanto until the end of May to submit a corrective action report in regards to an earthen holding pond leaking three million gallons of water onto a meadow near its new Blackfoot Bridge Mine in southeastern Idaho’s phosphate-rich Caribou County.

The March 29 breach along a spillway conduit in a catch basin created a 150-foot-long sediment plume on the wetland, but recent testing of the water showed no elevated selenium levels, said Randy Vranes, Monsanto’s mineral operations manager. State and federal regulatory agencies were alerted to the pond failure.

Selenium is a toxic byproduct created when water reacts with phosphate waste rock or overburden. The catch basin is designed to allow for the controlled release of natural runoff and snow melt water into the meadow.

The Blackfoot Bridge Mine is expected to start operating later this year with a 17-year life expectancy. In June 2011, the BLM approved the 1,469-acre mine, which will disturb about 740 mostly private acres not far from the Blackfoot River.

About 10 percent of it would be on BLM land. Monsanto’s South Rasmussen Mine is expected to be exhausted this year.

Monsanto uses the phosphate from its mines to manufacture elemental phosphorus and Roundup weed killer at its three-furnace plant near Soda Springs.

An engineering design investigation is under way to ensure the new mine’s advanced water management system functions reliably, Monsanto spokesman Trent Clark said, noting the mine’s comprehensive design incorporates many environmental protections.

Jeff Cundick, the BLM’s minerals branch chief in Pocatello, said the failed settling pond is part of a network of ponds controlling surface water runoff. Initial reports indicate as the pond was filling the buoyant force of a 60-inch pipe caused it to float enough to separate its joint and allow water to flow around the outside of the pipe, washing away the dam’s center part.

BLM is working with other federal and state agencies to assess if any statutory violations occurred and to review Monsanto’s reports and revised designs to ensure similar failures do not recur, Cundick said, adding no waterways or wetlands were adversely impacted.
The company has constructed a temporary berm so the pond is able to function consistent with the approved water management plan.

Marv Hoyt, Idaho director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said he toured the pond failure site with Monsanto managers. He said there was not a lot of sediment that flowed into and covered some of the wetlands downstream.

“On the other hand, it is somewhat troubling that one of the simplest and least complex pieces of a highly complex mine failed,” Hoyt said. “It certainly gives us reason to scrutinize future mine proposals in the region.”
Fifteen phosphate mine sites in Southeast Idaho are listed as Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund sites, encompassing 15,000 acres, mostly in Caribou County.

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Idaho Mendiola

Horman
Representative Wendy Horman (center) at the Idaho Falls City Club. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

For Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, the controversial health insurance exchange, education reform and Medicaid issues tackled by lawmakers this year made the 2013 Idaho legislative session one of the most challenging he has experienced. For Wendy Horman, it was her baptism by fire.

Republicans Hill, a Rexburg District 34 senator, and Horman, an Idaho Falls District 30B representative, gave their takes on the recently concluded session as a veteran and a rookie, respectively, at a recent City Club of Idaho Falls luncheon.

This past session was the 12th for Hill, a CPA who serves on the Local Government & Taxation and State Affairs committees, and the first for Horman, a small business owner who serves on the Education, Judiciary, Rules & Administration and Local Government committees.

Hill said the Legislature’s Joint Finance & Appropriations Committee is the envy of many states because of its efficiency. It was informally decided about 25 years ago as part of an unwritten power sharing rule that if someone sat on JFAC, he or she could not chair a committee or be a member of leadership, he said.

“That spread the opportunities around,“ Hill said. “Being in the Legislature is exciting, and it’s frustrating. It’s rewarding, and it’s stressful. There’s always drama.”

Horman said intensive three-day legal training in ethics and procedures enabled freshmen legislators to “hit the ground running. That was not an accident. There’s a very good correlation. … I’m telling you right now, the freshman class were not ninth graders.”

The magnitude of responsibility as a legislator is almost overwhelming, she said, but 11 years on a Bonneville school board helped prepare her for the task at hand.

Horman said process, policy and people had to align as guiding principles when she was a school board member. As a new legislator, she said she had to add a fourth “P” as a principle — politics.

“The partisan world is not something you can overlook or you do so at your own peril,” Horman said, adding a “crud filter” must be applied when processing information as a legislator. She said she was an “abject failure” in answering hundreds of messages flooding her e-mail box.

Many of those e-mails addressed gun control. Hill said legislators resisted pressure to impose gun restrictions and called Idaho one of the most Second Amendment-supportive states in the union.

Hill noted that the percentage of new legislators set a record this past session. Eleven of 35 senators were new; 30 of 70 House representatives were new or about 43 percent. “They didn’t feel as intimidated,” he said of the newcomers.

The 2013 Legislature followed the most contentious primary election season in about 30 years, Hill said, noting the health care exchange dispute was “a wedge driven deeper and deeper right down the middle of the Republican party.” He called it the Legislature’s most contentious and difficult issue.

Legislators rejected a federal health insurance exchange and reluctantly embraced a state-based exchange instead.

“It won’t work as good as now. It will work better than a federal exchange, but your health insurance premiums are going to go up,” Hill warned, adding Republicans do not favor health insurance exchanges. “I’ve never seen the federal government run anything better economically, efficiently and capably than at the state level.”

Because of the time consumed by health insurance exchange debate, Hill said it is unlikely a bill expanding Medicaid would have passed. It has a better chance of being enacted next year, he said. Horman said she was surprised that a Medicaid bill was introduced only about 48 hours before adjournment.

Both sides of the education reform issue also took criticism, Hill said. Voters repealing education reforms enacted by the Legislature caused unintended consequences, he said.

Despite disagreements, Hill said the working relationship between Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, the Senate and House was the best he has seen in years.

“Now as dysfunctional as you may think we are, I’d say we’re a lot less dysfunctional than our old colleagues in Washington.”

The Legislature adopted a balanced budget and increased appropriations by 3 percent as revenues slowly climb back up, but they remain below pre-recession levels.

Individual and corporate taxes were reduced during the session, Hill said. Ninety percent of businesses saw their personal property taxes eliminated at a modest cost to the state, he noted.

The Senate pro tem said Idaho is losing between $120 million to $180 million annually in lost Internet sales tax revenue, which hurts brick-and-mortar companies.

When asked by moderator Karole Honas, a KIFI-TV news anchor, about why the Legislature has reduced financial support for higher education when it is so important for providing good jobs, Hill conceded that is a big concern.

“Quite frankly, when the economy went south, higher education took a much, much greater hit than K-12,” he said. “We have one of the highest high school graduation rates in the nation, but one of the lowest college graduation rates in the nation.”

Mark Mendiola is a writer at Pocatello.

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Mendiola

Watts
 
Greater Pocatello Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Matt Hunter (left) chats with lobbyist John Watts at an Idaho Falls luncheon. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

John Watts, a partner at Veritas Advisors, has been lobbying Idaho legislators since 1983 on behalf of a wide range of clients.

When he addressed an Idaho Falls Mayor’s Business Day luncheon on April 2, two days before the Legislature adjourned, he said its 2013 session has been “truly uniquely different,” setting new precedents and breaking traditions.

The Boisean said 24-hour cable news, cell phones and social media like Facebook and Twitter were not in existence 30 years ago when he started his career as a lobbyist, but they have dramatically changed the way business is now conducted at the State Capitol.

Everyone at the Statehouse also is worrying about issues at the federal level that directly impact Idaho, Watts said. “Then, along comes redistricting,” which brought about a whole new set of legislative districts and a crop of 32 brand new legislators.

And, for the first time in his memory, a sitting speaker of the House was defeated for re-election, Watts said, referring to Scott Bedke’s defeat of fellow Republican Lawrence Denney for the top post, which Denney has held since 2006.

A Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee education bill was defeated on the floor of the Senate. Watts said he does not remember in 30 years a JFAC bill dying such a death. Usually, JFAC legislation is considered a given because representatives of both houses work together to draft it.

Six of 10 Senate chairmanships and seven of 14 House chairmanships are
held by new legislators, Watts noted. There also is a new minority leader in the Senate. “Sophomores are sitting as chairs,” he said.

Watts likened the Idaho Legislature to a business where one third of the work force is replaced and told to start work the next day with up to 60 percent of the managers brand new. This session also marked the first time it was mandatory for all legislators to undergo ethics training.

One of the longest debates in the Legislature’s history also happened this session, pertaining to establishing a state health insurance exchange in response to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” taking effect.

The controversial issue was debated for nine hours on the House floor and for seven hours in the Senate, ranking for length of time with when abortion was debated in the Legislature during the early 1990s, Watts said. Full hearings regarding the health care issue took nearly two full months, too.

Despite the high number of freshmen legislators, 542 pieces of legislation were introduced this years as opposed to 546 in 2011 and 450 in 2009. “They were still introducing bills late Friday.”

Nine of the new legislators are from eastern Idaho. Only two of the 14 House chairmen and one of the 10 Senate chairmen come from north of the Salmon River. The rest are from the Treasure Valley, Magic Valley and Southeast Idaho.

“Some of the chairs in the northern part of the state are wishing they lived in the southern part,” Watts said.

This year’s bills seemed to be “more complicated, a little grayer and more
compromised than in the past.” Fourteen of the new legislators emphasized they were determined to vote in the best interest of the state even if it meant going against their leadership.

A measure that would phase out the state’s personal property tax over years now sits on Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s desk for his signature. Lawmakers also tackled a bill pushed by Commerce Director Jeff Sayer that would enable Idaho to better compete against other states by providing $3 million to entice new business to the state.

Some bills, however, failed this session, including one that would create transportation economic development zones, the “Hire One More Employee” (HOME) bill, an Internet sales tax bill and a Medicaid expansion bill.

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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.

Gilliam noted that the Idaho Department of Commerce has achieved 34 “wins” across the state representing more than 2,000 new jobs in the next two years and amounting to $225 million in capital investments.

Linda Martin, executive director of Grow Idaho Falls, said Bonneville County’s population has grown 26 percent in the past decade and the Idaho Falls area enjoys $3 billion in gross annual retail sales. She said she hopes the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to close the air control towers in Idaho Falls and Pocatello can be reversed.

Within 150 miles of Idaho Falls and Pocatello, $800 million in products are exported, Martin said. Statewide, exports total about $6 billion, with electronics exceeding farm commodities. She said economic development efforts in Bonneville County the past five years have returned about $2.54 billion on what has been invested.

“Sometimes economic development is akin to pulling a rabbit out of a hat,” she said.

Neil Tocher, an Idaho State University assistant professor of management, pointed out that the average annual family income in Idaho Falls is $59,000 as opposed to $43,000 for Pocatello. He recommended that multimodal transportation distribution centers be developed by Pocatello, taking advantage of the city’s access to an airport, two interstate freeways and railroad tracks.

Park Price, president and chief executive officer for the Idaho Falls-based Bank of Idaho, said community leaders from Soda Springs to Rexburg need to cooperate in successfully promoting the region as a single 300,000-population market to attract companies and better jobs.

Premier Technology President Doug Sayer said it’s tough to compete in a market when the cost of manufacturing has doubled and qualified personnel are difficult to hire. He credited his company’s success to the quality of its work force.

Jim Johnston, a Pocatello City Council member and real estate agent, said Pocatello’s housing market gained about 8.7 percent in value last year as opposed to a 9.3 percent decline in 2011. It has enjoyed 13 consecutive months of price gains and is much better than it has been since 2007, he said.

Johnston stressed the importance of ISU to the region and praised a “communiversity effort” in support of the university, which employs about 3,800, including administrators, faculty, staff and students.

Chubbuck Mayor Steven England confirmed that Olive Garden had looked at property in Chubbuck for a new restaurant and mentioned that Red Lobster plans a $200,000 upgrade.

Tinno Batt, treasurer for the Fort Hall Business Council, said the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes (with about 5,500 members) employ more than 1,100 in their government and commercial enterprises, creating a significant multiplier effect in eastern Idaho. Two of Idaho’s largest farmers lease lands on the reservation, Batt said. The new Shoshone-Bannock convention center and casino were praised by several panelists.

Tim Forhan, Bannock Development past president, said quality of life and education were main factors in attracting employees to Pocatello when he was an AMI Semiconductor executive.

Arlen Wittrock, an ON Semiconductor consultant who serves on the Idaho Economic Advisory Council, said the state is not as strong as it should be in supporting rural economies and noted Idaho has the second lowest per pupil K-12 spending in the nation.

Wittrock advocated reforming Idaho’s personal property tax by looking at a tiered approach because he said it discourages high tech companies from locating in the state. Several panelists took issue with the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry’s push to repeal the personal property tax entirely.

Kent Rudeen of Power County and Vaughn Rasmussen of Bear Lake County said repealing the property tax would hit hard their counties, which rely heavily on the tax for their budgets. Rasmussen criticized the negative impact repealing $140 million in personal property tax would have on counties.

Power County hopes to develop industrial areas near the abandoned FMC site and near Lamb-Weston’s spud processing plant to bring better paying jobs, Rudeen said, noting American Falls has lost two cafes and a retail store recently. It has not had a car dealership for years.

The looming closure of the J.R. Simplot Co.’s Aberdeen potato processing plant also will “drain vitality” from the area, he said. Double L Manufacturing recently moved its farm equipment business from American Falls to the Heyburn area.

“I’m not quite as optimistic,” Rudeen said, adding that repealing the personal property tax would cut 40 percent from Power County’s budget.

Bank of Idaho’s Price noted that Idaho ranks 51st in taxes assessed overall. “We’re certainly not overtaxed,” he said, adding the state’s tax system seems pretty balanced right now. Repealing the personal property tax on equipment would hurt cities and counties, shifting corporate taxes to residents. “I don’t know if corporations need further relief.”

Chase said repealing the personal property tax would raise taxes for homeowners and make it difficult for local governments to compensate for the significant loss in revenue. He noted that many school districts in the state have had to resort to levy overrides to generate needed operating revenue.

He said it’s a sad commentary that Idaho’s prison budget has increased more than its education budget.

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mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
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President Obama must wield his authority to minimize the harm inflicted by the looming $85 billion in federal “sequestration” budget cuts set to take effect on Friday, March 1, Idaho U.S. Sen. Jim Risch said Monday night, Feb. 25, during a “Tele-Town Hall” meeting.

“I hope the president of the United States who is in charge of implementing the cuts and whose idea it was will do so reasonably,” Risch said. “The president has the ability to move those cuts around and make them as painless as possible. I hope he does that.”

Recently ranked by the National Journal as the most conservative U.S. senator in Congress, Risch said the nation’s financial condition is the most prominent issue confronting Washington and all states.

“If you think it’s pretty bad, the bad news is you wouldn’t be exactly correct. It’s much worse than what every American knows,” the former Idaho governor said. “The facts of where we are right now are not debatable.”

The federal government has been spending $3.8 trillion annually for the past four or five years – or about $11 billion a day. “Unfortunately, on average, the federal government only takes in $6.5 billion a day. … The federal government borrows a little over $4 billion every single day just to meet its bills that night.”

Contrary to what is commonly believed, the government is borrowing the money to pay the difference, primarily from China, not printing it. The U.S. Treasury used to borrow once a month to pay its bills, then once a week. After the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was enacted as a $787 billion economic stimulus, borrowing had to be done on a daily basis. Now, it’s done multiple times a day, he said.

Treasury tells the Bureau of Public Debt how much to borrow. “We also borrow between $50 billion to $70 billion a day to refinance the debt.” If the $6.5 billion in daily revenue were spent on priorities, it would only pay for Social Security, Medicare and the interest on the national debt, but nothing on defense, education, agriculture, parks or anything else, Risch said.

“This also helps underscore how difficult the situation is and how badly the government is pinched,” he said. “The bad news is there’s nothing in play right now to turn this around or change this.”

Congress and the White House have kicked the can down the road by passing legislation every 90 days to keep the government running. The debt ceiling is hit every six months. When Risch took his Senate office in 2009, the national debt was $10 trillion. It now stands at more than $16 trillion.

When the debt ceiling was hit last August, a “Super Committee” was created to find up to $1.6 trillion in spending cuts. When committee members were not able to reach agreement, automatic spending or “sequester” cuts were set to take effect on March 1, after November’s presidential election.

Entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare are exempted from the sequester cuts, which will come entirely from discretionary spending programs, which comprise 40 percent of the total federal budget.

“There has been a lot of talk and misinformation and fear mongering” about the impact sequestration will have on the nation, Risch said, noting that when he served in the Idaho Legislature, the governor had the authority to make holdbacks in times of financial setbacks. He would work with legislators to ensure crucial programs were spared.

“We all worked together to make it as painless as possible for Idahoans,” Risch said. “We worked together to make it work in the best interest of the people.”

When asked by a man in Buhl why senators don’t just go home and let others work on passing a budget after four years of not enacting one, Risch responded by saying only the majority party can bring a budget forward, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to do so.

“We have urged him over and over to do it,” Risch said, referring to his Republican colleagues. “I’m absolutely and totally astounded Congress will not follow the law or adopt a budget. It astounds me that an institution that spends $3.8 trillion does so without a budget. I’m outraged by it, and most Americans are.”

When a woman from Grangeville expressed concerns about the Federal Aviation Administration threatening to close airport control towers in Lewiston, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls and Pocatello, Risch said the FAA’s budget under sequestration would be rolled back to its levels four years ago.

“In 2009, the FAA was able to operate all of those towers without any difficulty at all,” he said. “One of the things that astounded me when I got to Washington D.C. was how archaic and cumbersome the process is. … It’s incredibly frustrating to deal with a system like that.”

Risch said it’s ridiculous to project budgets 10 years out so cuts are targeted for the eighth, ninth and 10th years, not immediately. Since 2000, the federal government has virtually doubled in number of employees and money spent, he said.

It is up to the executive branch of government to execute the budget and appropriations enacted by the legislative branch. “It will be up to President Obama and his administration that executes the holdback,” Risch said, adding the list of cuts put out by the White House appears painful and punitive. “You can’t help but get the feeling, it’s all political.”

Risch warned the United States is heading toward a financial catastrophe like Greece if exorbitant spending continues unabated. “In some cases, our credit card has a higher limit than Greece’s does,” he said, lamenting the predominant cavalier attitude toward spending in Washington.

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Dave Smith, a certified public accountant, right, converses with Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little following a City Club of Idaho Falls luncheon. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

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MENDIOLA

 
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Idaho Lieutenant Governor Brad Little says the crushing federal debt that has burgeoned from $4 trillion in 2000 to $16 trillion in 2013 and existing future obligations most concern him when considering challenges for Idaho’s economy and how the Legislature will tackle them.

“Today we’ve got new challenges. As always, you’ve got the international economy and what kind of curves that’s going to throw America and Idaho,” Little said, commending the downward trend in Idaho’s unemployment rate. “But we’ve still got … way too high an unemployment rate, but even more critical an underemployment rate.”

Unfunded future liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare have gone from $20 trillion to $80 trillion as the U.S. population ages, Little said. Average retirees have paid $110,000 into Medicare, but will take out $350,000 at a rate of 10,000 retirees a day, he noted.

“So, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that that’s unsustainable,” he recently told the City Club of Idaho Falls. “Unfortunately, the president and Congress … have kicked the proverbial can down the road. … The problem with that can is it’s getting a lot bigger and a lot harder to kick in the fact that they haven’t addressed it.”

Little said Idaho’s congressional delegation has been in the forefront of addressing the deficit crisis, but the task is not easy. If Congress tomorrow were to eliminate every federal employee, it would not cut the annual operating deficit by half. “That’s the magnitude of just the cash deficit that’s out there. So, there are going to be hard decisions that are going to need to be made on the federal level.”

That’s important to Idaho because 30 percent to 40 percent of the money appropriated by the Legislature comes from the federal government. A large percentage of the money used by Idaho cities, counties and highway districts also comes from the same source.

“So, when Congress inevitably does the right thing, we know there’s going to be consequences.”

With the exception of oil-rich states like North Dakota, Montana and Oklahoma, Idaho has led the nation in recovering from the last recession, the lieutenant governor said.

It did so by prudently setting aside rainy day funds, not raising taxes, cutting spending by 20 percent and adhering to a structurally balanced budget, which essentially means one-time money is not spent on ongoing programs, Little said.

“I can tell you even though 40-some states require balanced budgets, there’s very few of them with the exception of those energy states that are in the same position we are.”

What’s even more critical is budget issues cannot be resolved in Idaho or the nation if the economy does not grow. “So that’s a delicate balance that has to take place on both the national level and the state level.”

Retaining existing businesses, recruiting new ones and diversifying the economy are crucial for resilience, he said. “The status quo as far as business is not going to be adequate for us to grow to where we’ve got that shock absorber when those waves of whatever it’s going to be come to us from the federal government. We don’t know and frankly they don’t know, but I think all learned souls back there will tell you it’s inevitable.”

Maintaining the state’s infrastructure always comes down to education, Little said, applauding Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature for the wisdom and innovation to create the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) in Idaho Falls, which leverages Idaho’s universities with the Idaho National Laboratory’s assets and affiliated businesses.

“Taxes need to be fair, simple, predictable and competitive,” Little said, adding that Idaho’s tax system is envied by other states despite its warts. “We are competing against the other states.”

Renowned economist Meredith Whitney, who accurately predicted the 2008 banking meltdown due to the nation’s housing implosion, now forecasts the next macroeconomic impact to hit the United States will be the exodus of companies and work forces from states like California and Illinois, where energy expenses, housing costs and taxes are extremely high, hurting job creation.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m pretty bullish on where we are in Idaho,” Little said. “But our mantra in Idaho can’t be that we’re just not California. We have to talk about the strengths that we have.”

The word is getting out about Idaho’s strengths, including its people and culture, Little said:

· The Kauffman Foundation recently ranked Idaho first as a place to start and operate a new business.
· CNBC ranked Idaho fifth for work force quality and availability.
· The Council on State Taxation ranked Idaho as one of the top five states for fair, efficient, customer-focused tax administration. “Our taxes when you add them all up are some of the lowest when you add up all the taxes from all sources of all the states,” Little said.
· The Fraser Report ranked Idaho one of the most favorable from a regulatory standpoint.
· The Commonwealth Fund said Idaho offers the most affordable single family health insurance premiums and the second lowest for small businesses.
· Fitch Ratings ranked Idaho as one of the top five states for fiscal solvency.

After considering two other states, Chobani Yogurt decided to spend $450 million and create 400 jobs to establish the world’s largest yogurt plant near Twin Falls, taking only 326 days to construct the million-square-foot plant that houses 20 acres under roof.

“It’s state-of-the-art, most modern food processing plant that has been built in the world,” Little said.

Chobani executives selected Idaho because speed matters, and they liked the seamless working relations between state, county and city governments. The state’s efficient permitting process, ability to train an available work force and infrastructure are why they decided on Idaho.

“Like the last 150 years, hard work, wise decisions and entrepreneurialism have advanced Idaho through the tough times. We will successfully navigate the challenges ahead of us,” Little said, alluding to Idaho’s sesquicentennial.

The lieutenant governor said there is no question Idaho’s personal property tax is an unfair tax. It raises $142 million in annual revenue for cities and counties. There’s “a little better than odds on chance” the personal property tax will be repealed this legislative session, he said, mentioning when Idaho enacted a state sales tax in 1965, its inventory tax was eliminated.

Unlike other corporate members of the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry, Monsanto has opposed repealing the business personal property tax because of its adverse impact on Caribou County, where it employs hundreds who mine phosphate and process it into elemental phosphorus. That county could suffer a 45 percent cut in revenue if the personal property tax is repealed, he said.

On the other hand, Phoenix-based ON Semiconductor, which operates a semiconductor plant in Pocatello, has strongly backed the business personal property tax’s repeal.

StateImpact Idaho, a collaborative effort between Boise State Public Radio and NPR, shows that if the business personal property tax were repealed Monsanto would save nearly $490,000 and ON would save nearly $698,000 in annual taxes, based on Idaho Tax Commission figures.

“There’s still some question about the three-part test about what’s real property and what’s personal property,” Little said. “I’m not a big fan of saying we’re just going to let everybody off and leave one group hanging out there to pay it from a fairness standpoint.”

On the other hand, some businesses are competing against businesses in other states where everything they have is designated real property while theirs is taxable personal property. “There’s a fairness issue there that needs to be addressed also,” Little said.

The Emmett rancher said he and Gov. Butch Otter like local option taxes, but “the devil’s in the details.” They must be regional and broad-based to work effectively and be fair, he said.

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Idaho Gov. Butch Otter converses with Ross Eggett, Allstate human resources manager, at the company’s Chubbuck customer call center where a major expansion was announced.

 

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

Allstate Insurance Company’s announcement Thursday, Jan. 17, that it would expand its Pocatello/Chubbuck operations by opening a roadside services center and hiring 225 additional employees was welcomed by Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and a host of elected and business officials.

Opened 14 months ago directly west of the Pine Ridge Mall and south of Home Depot, the 75,000-square-foot Allstate customer contact center now employs 250 and is in the process of training 120 additional employees during 2013’s first quarter. Those 370 employees, coupled with the 225 in roadside service, would bring Allstate’s total local employment to nearly 600.

Like Otter, Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and Chubbuck Mayor Steven England praised Allstate’s expansion. Blad said he expects Allstate’s employment in Bannock County to ultimately reach 800, making it one of the area’s largest employers.

Allstate’s new center will handle roadside emergency calls for customers across the United States, requiring center representatives, managers and instructors. The existing customer care center is undergoing construction to accommodate the roadside services center.

“Allstate could have gone anywhere else,” Otter told a large crowd inside the company’s dining area. He was flanked by local employees with 225 blue balloons. “This adds a lot of luster to a project started a short time ago. … This is a great day for us all.”

Otter said he commends Allstate when he meets with other governors. He mentioned that he recently met with the premiers of four western Canadian provinces to proceed with the Keystone pipeline project.

Paul Huber, Allstate roadside services chief operations officer, said the new center will increase the company’s flexibility to serve all customers, handle existing volumes and prepare for future strategic growth. The company serves 175,000 households in Idaho.

After conducting an extensive nationwide search, Allstate concluded that “Chubbuck/Pocatello is the perfect location for expansion,” Huber said, mentioning the new center’s first training class for employees will be Jan. 28 with the first live calls set for Feb. 12.

Jody Lewis, Allstate contact center site leader, and Diane Love, temporary roadside services site leader, also addressed the crowd.

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mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

Calling the recent “fiscal cliff” negotiations in Washington a lost opportunity, Bank of Idaho President and Chief Executive Officer Park Price says if Congress and the White House can successfully resolve the looming debt ceiling and sequestration budget controversies, he expects robust economic growth in Idaho and the United States during 2013.

If agreement is not reached, America will teeter and lurch back into recession, he anticipates, noting the federal sector accounts for 20 percent of the economy.

Noting that six million jobs have been lost since the nation’s economic meltdown of 2008, Price says he hopes 2013 will see business start to hire more people, which is a must for the nation to pull out of its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

But uncertainty over whether the U.S. will default on its national debt or whether massive automatic federal budget cuts will be imposed by sequestration on March 1 has companies reluctant to resume hiring. When they are forced to lay off quickly, they tend to hire slowly, says Price, who earned an economics degree from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

“Businesses hate uncertainty,” Price says. “The longer this goes on, the harder it is on the economy.”

For 13 years, Price specialized in capital investments for General Motors. From 1979 to 2003, he owned and operated Park Price Motor Co. in Pocatello, which was founded by his father in 1947. In July 2003, Price became president of the Bank of Idaho, which has seven branches in eastern Idaho and real estate offices specializing in mortgage originations in Twin Falls, Pocatello and Idaho Falls. He became the bank’s CEO in 2010.

The recent disappointing fiscal cliff debate resulted in some tax increases with no spending cuts. A more comprehensive package was needed on a grander scale, Price says, adding that deficit spending cannot be sustained at its torrid pace.

“It’s clear that the path we’re on is unsustainable. We continue to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren. It is morally unacceptable to tolerate this,” the former Pocatellan says.

On the other hand, if spending is cut too aggressively, it could be a shock to the economy, tax revenues could fall and the federal deficit worsen, he cautions, urging that cuts be done gradually, not drastically. Congress won’t agree to raise the federal debt ceiling as President Obama wants without significant spending cuts, he observes.

Because of the fiscal cliff outcome, taxes are now off the table, Price notes, stressing he hopes cooler heads prevail as the new Congress gets organized. “Unfortunately, we don’t have much time,” he says.

parkpriceand

Bank of Idaho President/CEO Park Price converses with Pocatello philanthropist Dorsey Hill and Dr. Bill Stratton, retired dean of the Idaho State University College of Business, following a Pocatello Rotary Club presentation.

 

“Sequestration” was incorporated into the Budget Control Act of 2011 to task a “super committee” with cutting the federal budget by $1.2 trillion through 2021, but because it failed to do so, the entire federal budget will be subject to a series of mandatory, immediate cuts – with the defense department taking the biggest hit.

Price said it is possible sequestration could take effect. “That’s like trying to do a difficult surgery with a meat ax. You probably cut the problem off, but there are lots better ways to do it,” he remarks, adding it would cause huge layoffs in the public and private sectors that would hurt the economy.

The Idaho National Laboratory, Boeing, General Electric, General Dynamics and universities dependent upon federal research grants and government contracts could be hard hit if budgets are slashed.

Battelle Energy Alliance has announced it plans to cut 450 jobs at INL this year after eliminating about 180 positions in 2012. CH2M-WG Idaho, the contractor in charge of the Idaho Cleanup Project at INL, reduced about 400 jobs last year. Sequestration could trigger more draconian cuts.

The economy could absorb $2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, but sudden massive curtailments ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent would hurt it and cause unintended consequences, the Idaho Falls banker says.

Polarization in Congress between those opposed to spending cuts and those opposed to tax increases is the crux of the problem in Washington, causing a high degree of rancor and distrust, Price says, calling for compromise on both sides. He advocates reforming the complex, Byzantine U.S. tax code as part of the solution, which could lower tax rates by broadening the tax base.

“This tells me the division between the conservatives and the liberals is too tough right now. Hopefully, the results of not dealing with this are so drastic that people will come to their senses,” Price says.

If Washington can avoid sequestration and a default on the $16 trillion national debt, Price sees the nation’s economy growing by 3½ percent to 4 percent in 2014 and 2015. The U.S. economy’s growth in 2012 was an anemic 1.8 percent as compared to Idaho’s 3.4 percent growth last year. The Federal Reserve projects the U.S. growth to be 2.5 percent in 2013.

In 1947, manufacturing as a percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product was 14 percent and the sector employed 33 percent of the U.S. work force. In 2005, it was 14 percent of GDP, but the sector only employed 10 percent of the work force. “This sector has been on the decline for 60 years, and the decline isn’t abating,” he says.

If gridlock can be averted in the nation’s capital, Price sees Idaho’s economy poised to surge another 4 percent in 2013. He credits strong commodity prices and good farm employment as a huge reason the Gem State’s economy has done so well the past three to four years. Noting that the agriculture sector can he cyclical, he cautions that a weather event, a price event or disease could change that favorable equation.

When asked how inflation has stayed subdued despite consecutive $1 trillion deficits the past four years, Price quoted former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson who said the United States is “the best horse in the glue factory” compared to other nations.

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