From a report on who pays what in Oregon taxes, prepared by the Oregon Center for Public Policy. The numbers in brackets refer to sources, which can be found where the full report is posted online.

Who pays more, low- or high-income households? The income group in Oregon that pays the highest share of their income to state and local taxes: Lowest income households.[1] The income group in Oregon that pays the lowest share of their income to state and local taxes: The wealthiest 1 percent of households.[2]

Have taxes increased as a share of Oregonians’ income? Oregon state and local general revenue as a share of income in 1991: 15.8 percent.[3] Oregon state and local general revenue as a share of income in 2012: 15.0 percent.[4]

How much do working poor Oregonians pay in income taxes? 2013 federal poverty threshold for a family of four with two children: $23,624.[5] State income tax paid in Oregon by a family of four living at the poverty line in 2013: $230.[6] Of the 42 states with income taxes, the number that taxed the income of a family of four living at the poverty line in 2013: 16.[7] Oregon’s rank in taxing the income of a family of four living at the poverty line in 2013: 5th highest.[8]

What share of income goes to the top 1 percent? Share of income going to Oregon’s top 1 percent in 2013: 14.0 percent.[9] Share of income going to Oregon’s bottom 40 percent in 2013: 7.7 percent.[10]

What share of capital gains income goes to the top 1 percent? Share of income from capital gains going to Oregon’s top 1 percent in 2013: 53.0 percent.[11] Share of capital gains going to Oregon’s top 5 percent in 2013: 73.6 percent.[12] Share of income from capital gains going to Oregon’s bottom 95 percent in 2013: 27.5 percent.[13]

How do lottery and income tax revenues compare? Anticipated state revenue from personal income taxes in 2015-17: $15.75 billion.[14] Anticipated state revenue from the Oregon Lottery in 2015-17: $1.13 billion.[15] Anticipated state revenue from corporate income taxes in 2015-17: $1.08 billion.[16]

Do corporations pay a fair share of income taxes? Share of Oregon income taxes paid by corporations in 1973-75: 18.5 percent.[17] Share of Oregon income taxes corporations are projected to pay in 2015-17: 6.4 percent.[18]

Additional state revenue available in 2015-17 for schools, health and human services and public safety if corporations paid the same share of the state’s income taxes as they paid in 1973-75: $2.5 billion.[19] Amount of additional money Oregon schools needed in 2013-15 to provide all children a quality education: $2.2 billion.[20]

Do some profitable corporations pay nothing in income taxes? Number of profitable corporations doing business in Oregon that paid the corporate minimum tax in tax year 2012: 3,294.[21] Number of corporations with Oregon profits that used tax credits to reduce their 2012 tax liability below the corporate minimum tax: 218.[22] Number of corporations with Oregon profits that paid nothing in Oregon corporate income taxes for tax year 2012: 169.[23] Number of corporations with over $1 million in Oregon profits that paid nothing in Oregon corporate income taxes for tax year 2012: at least 49.[24] The names of corporations that paid nothing in corporate income taxes that support the public structures that create a strong business climate: The legislature has yet to make this public.

Who itemizes deductions and who uses the standard deduction? Share of Oregonians who itemized their deductions in 2013: 47.0 percent.[25] Share of Oregonians who used the standard deduction in 2013: 53.0 percent.[26] Share of Oregonians earning $100,000 or less in 2013 who itemized: 39.7 percent.[27] Share of Oregonians earning $100,000 or less in 2013 who used the standard deduction: 60.3 percent.[28] Share of Oregon’s wealthiest 1 percent who itemized in 2013: 95.5 percent.[29]

Share of the mortgage interest deduction benefits going to the highest-earning 20 percent of Oregonians in 2011: 61 percent.[31]

Who benefits from the Oregon EITC? Projected 2015-17 cost of the Oregon Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): $105 million.[32] Share of Oregon taxpayers benefiting from the Oregon EITC in 2013: About 16 percent.[33] Share of Oregon EITC going to working families in 2013: 100 percent.[34]

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A statement from Chuck Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Corporations have gamed our tax system and it is costing the rest of us billions.

The Center’s analysis of today’s state revenue forecast shows that if the legislature stopped the corporate gaming of our tax system and made corporations pay the same share of income taxes that they paid in the 1970s, we would have about $2.5 billion in additional revenue in the upcoming budget period to help the poor and middle class get ahead.

There would be enough money to pay for the costly mistakes by the 2013 “grand bargain” special session — the illegal PERS changes and the special tax treatment for wealthy business owners.

There would also be enough money to cover the loss of revenue due to the spendthrift kicker, a $473 million tax cut that primarily benefits the rich.

Today’s revenue forecast underscores the need to end corporate tax gaming that’s projected to about $2.5 billion in the next budget period.

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From the just-released (May 12) report by the Pew Research Center on religion and American life.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

The United States remains home to more Christians than any other country, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans finds that the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those groups has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.

These are among the key findings of the Pew Research Center’s second U.S. Religious Landscape Study, a follow-up to its first comprehensive study of religion in America, conducted in 2007.

Because the U.S. census does not ask Americans about their religion, there are no official government statistics on the religious composition of the U.S. public. Some Christian denominations and other religious bodies keep their own rolls, but they use widely differing criteria for membership, and sometimes do not remove members who have fallen away. Surveys of the general public frequently include a few questions about religious affiliation, but they typically do not interview enough people, or ask sufficiently detailed questions, to be able to describe the country’s full religious landscape. The Religious Landscape Studies were designed to fill the gap.

Among other findings in the new study:

Christians probably have lost ground not only in their relative share of the U.S. population but also in absolute numbers. In 2007, there were 227 million adults in the United States, and a little more than 78% of them – or roughly 178 million – identified as Christians. Between 2007 and 2014, the overall size of the U.S. adult population grew by about 18 million people, to nearly 245 million. But the share of adults who identify as Christians fell to just under 71%, or approximately 173 million Americans, a net decline of about 5 million.

American Christians – like the U.S. population as a whole – are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Non-Hispanic whites now account for smaller shares of evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics than they did seven years earlier, while Hispanics have grown as a share of all three religious groups. Racial and ethnic minorities now make up 41% of Catholics (up from 35% in 2007), 24% of evangelical Protestants (up from 19%) and 14% of mainline Protestants (up from 9%).

Religious intermarriage appears to be on the rise. Among Americans who have gotten married since 2010, nearly four-in-ten (39%) report that they are in religiously mixed marriages, compared with 19% among those who got married before 1960.

While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time. As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007 and far lower than the general (adult) population’s median age of 46. By contrast, the median age of mainline Protestant adults in the new survey is 52 (up from 50 in 2007), and the median age of Catholic adults is 49 (up from 45 seven years earlier).

Switching religion is a common occurrence in the United States. If all Protestants were treated as a single religious group, then fully 34% of American adults currently have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. This is up six points since 2007, when 28% of adults identified with a religion different from their childhood faith. If switching among the three Protestant traditions (e.g., from mainline Protestantism to evangelicalism, or from evangelicalism to a historically black Protestant denomination) is added to the total, then the share of Americans who currently have a different religion than they did in childhood rises to 42%.

Christianity – and especially Catholicism – has been losing more adherents through religious switching than it has been gaining. More than 85% of American adults were raised Christian, but nearly a quarter of those who were raised Christian no longer identify with Christianity. Former Christians represent 19.2% of U.S. adults overall. Both the mainline and historically black Protestant traditions have lost more members than they have gained through religious switching, but within Christianity the greatest net losses, by far, have been experienced by Catholics. Nearly one-third of American adults (31.7%) say they were raised Catholic. Among that group, fully 41% no longer identify with Catholicism. This means that 12.9% of American adults are former Catholics, while just 2% of U.S. adults have converted to Catholicism from another religious tradition. No other religious group in the survey has such a lopsided ratio of losses to gains.

The evangelical Protestant tradition is the only major Christian group in the survey that has gained more members than it has lost through religious switching. Roughly 10% of U.S. adults now identify with evangelical Protestantism after having been raised in another tradition, which more than offsets the roughly 8% of adults who were raised as evangelicals but left for another religious tradition or who no longer identify with any organized faith.

The Christian share of the population is declining and the religiously unaffiliated share is growing in all four major geographic regions of the country. Religious “nones” now constitute 19% of the adult population in the South (up from 13% in 2007), 22% of the population in the Midwest (up from 16%), 25% of the population in the Northeast (up from 16%) and 28% of the population in the West (up from 21%). In the West, the religiously unaffiliated are more numerous than Catholics (23%), evangelicals (22%) and every other religious group.

Whites continue to be more likely than both blacks and Hispanics to identify as religiously unaffiliated. Among whites, 24% say they have no religion, compared with 20% of Hispanics and 18% of blacks. But the religiously unaffiliated have grown (and Christians have declined) as a share of the population within all three of these racial and ethnic groups.

This is the first report on findings from the 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study, the centerpiece of which is a nationally representative telephone survey of 35,071 adults interviewed on both cellphones and landlines from June 4-Sept. 30, 2014. Findings based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 0.6 percentage points.

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A guest opinion from Levi B Cavener, a special education teacher in Caldwell, Idaho. He also manages the education blog IdahosPromise.Org.

60 years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. On May 17, 1954, the High Court ruled unanimously that U.S. public schools must be desegregated, that separate school systems for blacks and whites are inherently unequal and a violation of the “equal protection clause” of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.
It’s now more than a half century later. Here, we have Idaho.

On April 29, 2015, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission released their first ever Annual Report. A damning self-indictment, it paints a painfully grim picture for minority student enrollment in Idaho’s public charter schools. The Commission’s comprehensive report was unequivocal in its findings: Idaho charter schools are consistently and disproportionately unreflective of their surrounding communities’ demographics.
A few takeaways from the report: 55% of Idaho charters under enroll Special Education students; 77% of charters under enroll Free and Reduced Lunch students; 87% under enroll Limited English Proficiency students; and 90% under enroll non-white students. What does this mean? It means Idaho has reversed course and is heading back to 1955, back to the Civil Rights era, and back to schools that are both separate and unequal. It means, apparently, “white flight”?

Beyond a moral and legal argument to ensure equity in public charter schools, here’s why every property owner in Idaho should care about the Commission’s recent findings: When public charter schools fail to share an equitable burden for providing expensive minority student services — such as special education and English Language Learner instruction — local public schools end up enrolling a disproportionate number of these students. Local public schools are then forced to levy property owners to pay for expensive minority instruction and support.

While some may point to the current imbalance as merely a byproduct of so called “school choice,” the Commission’s findings should, at minimum, create pause to ensure that charter facilities are actually “a choice” for minority student populations. Remember, Jim Crow laws and segregated schools were also a product of active policy “choices” by lawmakers.

Remember, the bargain that charters made with Idaho is enhanced instructional freedom in order to experiment with new pedagogy and curriculum. However, that bargain also requires charters to provide equitable access and appropriate minority service instruction as required by civil rights law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Terry Ryan, President of the Idaho Charter School Network (the lobbying arm of Idaho’s charters), recently wrote an op-ed declaring that the solution to this inequity problem is…wait for it…to build more charters! Said Mr. Ryan, “The best way to help charter schools serve more diverse populations is to help them grow.” Throw more money at the problem. Where have we heard this before?

Idaho Ed News reported that Idaho Charter Commission Chairman Alan Reed said of the report’s findings, “Before approving new charters, we ask petitioners, ‘What are your strategies for reaching special and underserved populations?’”

Chairman Reed’s question should be modified: Before approving any new charters we need to fix the imbalance that exists today. After all, shouldn’t minority students be entitled to the same freedom and legal opportunity “to choose” charters as any other kiddo?

It’s time for a moratorium on any new charters until we address this chronic imbalance. It’s time we fully recognize that regular public schools are shouldering the heavy burden of educating special education, minority and low income student populations.

And it’s past time that funding for Idaho charter schools be withheld until they can demonstrate they are following the law.

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From an April 20 release by Washington Senator Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

State Sen Michael Baumgartner is taking aim at the roadhogs who get into the fast lane – and just poke along.

In a bill introduced late last week in Olympia, the Spokane Republican proposes that left-lane drivers who drive slower than the speed limit be slapped with special penalties, when they drive continuously in the left lane and impede traffic. The slower they drive, the higher the fine. It’s the same way speeding tickets work, but in reverse.

“How often have you found yourself stuck in slow-moving freeway traffic because someone is hogging the fast lane?” Baumgartner asks. “If you drive back and forth on the freeways from Spokane to Olympia the way I do, you can’t help thinking there ought to be a law.”

Already the state of Washington makes it a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multi-lane highway, when it impedes the flow of traffic. The left lane is supposed to be used only for passing, moving aside for merging traffic, or preparing for a left turn.

Baumgartner says too many motorists haven’t gotten the message. So his bill, SB 6105, creates a new traffic offense of aggravated left-lane driving. In addition to the $124 fine for continuous left lane driving, a slowpoke could be slapped with additional penalties. They would start at $27 for one-to-five miles under the speed limit, and rise to $67 for 16-to-20 miles an hour under the limit.

“Poky left-lane drivers aren’t just a nuisance,” Baumgartner said. “They’re a safety hazard, forcing other drivers to slam on their brakes, tailgate or weave around them to the right. You can recognize them by the long line of frustrated drivers you’ll find right behind them. There ought to be a penalty for that sort of obliviousness.”

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We don’t often reprint issue letters – the type that encourage people to sign a petition on some issue, for example. But this one advocates for an idea on health care we’ve been supporting for years, and now it might become actual state law. The mail comes from the public interest organization OSPIRG.

We all know health care still costs too much. But how much does it cost? If you’ve ever asked, you know: They won’t tell you.

Why? Because, unlike every other business in America, hospitals get to keep their prices a secret. As a result, they get away with charging outrageous prices and surprising fees, often for routine procedures.

A bill to make Oregon’s hospitals post their actual prices online is scheduled for its first vote next Monday. Hospital and insurance industry lobbyists are working to defeat the proposal. Will you stand with us?

Tell your state lawmakers: Make hospitals post their prices.

Not too long ago, my friend’s wife cut her finger deeply and went to the emergency room. The doctor gave her a tetanus shot and a few dabs of a skin adhesive called Indermil. A few weeks later, they got a bill for $2,300. They charged her $1000 for the skin glue alone, even though it can be purchased online for $40 a tube.

What other business gets away with that?

When pressed on why they can’t just post their actual prices, hospitals will tell us it is too difficult and too complicated.

But it isn’t, really. They already know their prices – they just don’t want to make them public. In fact, hospitals and insurance companies actually have written agreements to keep the prices they negotiate a secret.

This is absurd and we should not tolerate it a moment longer. Inflated prices due to lack of competition and excessive price variation have led to $105 billion in waste in health care spending each year.

It is time to get the health care industry to do what every other business in America does.

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An opinion piece released on March 13 by Representative Mike Simpson, R-ID.

“The American people used their votes last year to demonstrate a strong objection to gridlock while giving a modest endorsement to the direction Congressional Republicans offered as an alternative to Democrat policies in Washington. Their confidence, however, was conditional on an expectation that Republicans would work aggressively to move our country forward.

“Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues in Congress see the election much differently. They view gridlock and obstructionism as a means to appease the politically pure and point fingers at anyone who seeks a different solution. While I agree with my colleagues on the conservative principles in this debate, I’d rather be advancing solutions to stop the President’s overreaching policies and putting forward Republican answers that thwart the Administration’s ability to rule from the executive branch.

“Instead, a faction of my Republican colleagues see obstructionist tactics like shutting down the government, or one of its most important agencies, as just another tool in the construction of a manufactured crises. This small segment of Republicans voted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a vote two weeks ago at the deadline – and they represent the most irresponsible, unrealistic, and ineffective segment of our Republican caucus.

“Even worse, they’re imposing a losing strategy while we are actually winning in the courts – the legitimate, and Constitutional, venue for resolving disputes between the executive and legislative branches.

“These members have no credible policy proposals to stop the President’s unlawful actions, instead they hold our national security hostage with shutdown threats, and then label any Member who opposes their strategy as “capitulating” to the President.

“They represent a segment of our caucus that would rather shut down the government than show the American people we can actually govern. They represent a segment of our caucus that would preach border security while defunding border patrol. They represent a segment of our caucus that defies the Constitution while preaching a strict adherence to its very principles. They represent a segment of our caucus that wrongly thought a government shutdown would spell the end of Obamacare. They got their shutdown. But we still have Obamacare.

“The majority of the Republican caucus has given ample opportunities for this loud minority to play-out their strategy. However, this small faction has failed to achieve any conservative victories and led our party so far astray that the Democrats have been able to exert influence in the absence of a united Republican party.

“My pro-shutdown colleagues are the same folks who pushed for immigration reform only to abandon the notion – leaving the American people on hold with a broken system, ineffective border, and overreaching President looking for any excuse to write executive actions.

“My pro-shutdown colleagues project Constitutional principles but they’re conveniently forgetting their own Constitutional responsibilities to fund the U.S. Government and, ‘provide for the common defense.’

“My pro-shutdown colleagues supported John Boehner for Speaker, before opposing him, then supporting him again, and now criticizing him. By undermining Republican leadership at every turn, the pro-shutdown minority has compromised our ability to pass conservative priorities that focuses on governing efficiently and effectively.

“The truth is my Republican colleagues and I have a critical and extremely short window of time to prove to the American people that we can govern responsibly. This brief window is our chance to demonstrate to the American people that they should look to a Republican as the next President of the United States. It’s also our chance to show that we prefer the Ronald Reagan model of taking 70-80% of what we can get…and then fighting united to get the rest in the future.”

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From Kate Brown’s inaugural speech on February 18, after her swearing in as governor of Oregon.

It’s been a tough few months. The people of Oregon have had reason to question their trust in state government. Oregon has been in the national news for all the wrong reasons.

That changes starting today. It’s time for us to get back to work. It’s time to move Oregon forward.

This great state is blessed with so many amazing qualities: breath-taking natural wonders, a resilient people and an unmatched quality of life. People born here want to stay here, and people are drawn here from all over the country. We are all fiercely proud to be Oregonians.

Before I sought public office, I worked as a family law advocate. There, I witnessed first-hand the problems of people whose lives were dramatically impacted by the law, but who seldom had an impact on shaping it – the child who needs a more stable home; the survivor of domestic violence;’ the family struggling to make ends meet.

I carry with me their faces and stories every day when I come to work.
And throughout my 24 years in public service, I have also sought to promote transparency and trust in government, working to build confidence that our public dollars are spent wisely.

As Governor, this will not change.

I will be a Governor who wants to hear the concerns of everyday Oregonians – children and working parents, small business owners and senior citizens.

In the public dialogue about resources and priorities, they will be my central focus.

It is with everyday Oregonians in mind that I take office today with enthusiasm and purpose. The legislature is in session; the budget has been submitted and more than 1,700 bills have been filed. Speaker Kotek, President Courtney, members of the legislature, on behalf of all Oregonians, thank you for your dedication and perseverance throughout this recent ordeal.

There is a great deal of work ahead of us, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it.

We are all keenly aware of the difficult circumstances that brought us to this moment – circumstances that none of us would have predicted only a short time ago.

Governor Kitzhaber dedicated most of his life to serving the people of Oregon. His contributions to our state are well woven into the fabric of our public life.

But now, we must restore the public’s trust.

I know that every Representative and Senator in this chamber loves Oregon as much as I do. And as I am sure you agree, in order for us to move forward, the first order of business is to regain the confidence of the people.

There are several things we can do, and one of them starts right now.

I pledge to you today that for as long as I am your Governor, I will not seek or accept any outside compensation, from any source. And I pledge further that while I am Governor, the members of my household and the members of my staff will not seek or accept any outside compensation, from any source, for any work related to the business of the State of Oregon. That simply will not happen.

Beyond that, we must seize this moment to work across party lines to restore the public’s trust. That means passing meaningful legislation that strengthens the capacity and independence of the Government Ethics Commission. We also must strengthen laws to ensure timely release of public documents.

We should not leave here without getting this done.

We must work together to address these and other real problems in real time; to strengthen Oregon’s recovery from the recession; to improve access to quality education and health care, and create more living-wage jobs in every single corner of the state.

Although as individuals we may have our differences, one thing connects us – we are all Oregonians. We are innovators, seekers, doers. Even our state motto, “She flies with her own wings,” underscores the extraordinary Oregon spirit that unites us and characterizes us as a people.

It is time once again to set our sights on Oregon’s future, to stretch our wings towards new horizons. Today is nearly half gone; tomorrow awaits, full of promise. Now it’s time to get to work.

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From a guest opinion by Levi B Cavener. Cavener is a special education teacher in Caldwell. He also manages the blog IdahosPromise.org where a larger version of this piece, including hyperlinks to primary sources, is available.

Recently, Roger Quarles, executive director of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation and former chief deputy on Tom Luna’s staff, announced that the Albertson Foundation would change course in its philanthropic giving, moving away from public schools and focusing new dollars on community based projects.

The reason for the alleged shift seems to be due to an underlying frustration that teachers and schools just weren’t adopting Albertson-fueled “innovation” quick enough. In a recent Boise State Public Radio interview Quarles voiced his frustration regarding the lack of Idaho schools to adopt Albertson initiatives, “You have to look at that and go ‘fundamentally there’s some problems within that system.’”

Let me be clear: Albertson has done some terrific work in supplying schools and students with funds to pilot classroom technology, curriculum, and emerging instructional methods. However, let me also point out that Albertson and Quarles have been equally complicit in building those exact same “fundamental problems.” For example, take Idaho’s longitudinal cradle to cadaver data tracking system: Idaho System of Educational Excellence (ISEE) and its companion, Schoolnet.

ISEE/Schoolnet was developed to uniformly track student and teacher data across the state. Unfortunately, millions of dollars and years later – and funded by both Idaho and the Albertson Foundation – ISEE/Schoolnet, like Victor Frankenstein’s monster, is still lying on the table waiting to be shocked into life. ISEE/Schoolnet has been such a colossal failure that in 2014 Idaho paid school districts to fund whatever system they preferred.

Schoolnet was so dysfunctional that Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, inquired at a 2013 legislative committee meeting, “Is [Schoolnet] working anywhere, for any purpose, to improve education?” The answer? No. In addition, as reported in both the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Ed News, when the data finally made it into teachers’ hands, it often wasn’t accurate.

Said one U.S. Dept. of Education federal grant reviewer of Idaho’s original ISEE/Schoolnet plan, “Idaho could benefit from examining the successful models of several states and hiring a professional grant writer and some technical experts….” While such feedback should have initially tapped the brakes on the project, Idaho and the Albertson Foundation pushed the gas to the floor, with Albertson promising a $21 million dollar grant.

Which is where Mr. Quarles fits in. When the Legislature caught whiff of the project’s total ineptitude, Supt. Luna dispatched then-Chief Deputy Quarles to clean up the mess. It didn’t go well. Despite some “software CPR,” districts across the state jumped ship and started again using a hodgepodge of independent data systems.

It gets better: Since then, Quarles left his post as chief deputy to become executive director of the Albertson Foundation. One of his first acts as executive director was to break the Foundation’s promise to Idaho’s schools and students by withholding the final ISEE/Schoolnet funds. To be fair, it was the correct decision; the writing was on the wall about ISEE/Schoolnet. Even Pearson, the company hired to build ISEE/Schoolnet, skipped town.

But this dysfunctional outcome is precisely the type of “fundamental problem” that Quarles places on Idaho’s public school system. Perhaps it’s better that ISEE/Schoolnet remains in the lab on life support. Like Victor Frankenstein’s monster, some things just aren’t meant to be shocked into life.

Albertson’s decision to back out is telling; it highlights precisely the dysfunction caused when radical, ideologically driven interest groups dabble in education policy. Albertson’s continued commitment to funding more special interest groups, like Teach For America, merely compounds the so called “fundamental problems” here in Idaho. Sorry, but Idaho’s “fundamental problem” has nobody to blame more than the Albertson Foundation itself.

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Idaho Department of Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore has maintained that many of the people active in the state’s wolf debates have been over- or under-stating various facts and distorting the issue. On January 29 he released this statement.

It’s important for state agencies to understand and respect differing points of view. But when a few advocacy groups try to grab headlines by skewing Idaho Fish and Game scientific wolf monitoring data in ways that simply aren’t true, it’s also important to set the record straight.

Here are the facts:

Idaho has more than 100 documented wolf packs and over 600 wolves. Idaho’s wolf population far exceeds federal recovery levels of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves.

After meeting federal recovery levels in 2002, Idaho’s wolf population grew largely unchecked for the remainder of the decade, resulting in increased conflicts with other big game populations and livestock.

After 4 harvest seasons since the 2011 delisting, livestock depredations have declined. Wolf predation continues to have unacceptable impacts to some elk populations, but there are signs elk populations are responding positively to wolf management.

Wolves in Idaho continue to be prolific and resilient. Idaho will keep managing wolves to have a sustainable, delisted population and to reduce conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

Despite these facts, a few advocacy groups chose to take the breeding pair metric out of context to make claims that Idaho wolves are “teetering on the brink of endangered status once again.” That’s hogwash. And it’s the kind of polarizing misinformation that undermines responsible wildlife conservation and management in Idaho.

Confirming a pack meets U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s narrow definition of a “breeding pair” is costly and labor-intensive. With vast reductions in federal funding to the state and Nez Perce Tribe for wolf monitoring, Fish and Game has focused our effort on demonstrating Idaho has at least 15 “breeding pairs” to comply with federal recovery requirements. Idaho closely surveyed 30 packs and confirmed that 22 of them met the breeding pair standard at the end of 2014. Because Idaho has shown it is well above federal recovery levels, we may rely on less intensive monitoring for the other 70 + packs as we complete our final 2014 population estimates. One can assume these 70+ packs include some additional breeding pairs. We will publish our annual monitoring report in March.

As trained scientists, Idaho Fish and Game stands by our data and our wildlife management plans. We manage wolves to ensure we keep state management authority and address conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

I hope people who truly care about wildlife conservation ignore the exaggerations and misinformation and help Fish and Game focus on the real issues affecting Idaho’s wildlife.

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From the White House transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks in Boise on Wednesday.

So, last night, I gave my State of the Union address. (Applause.) Today, I’m going to be shorter. I won’t be too short, just a little shorter. (Laughter.) And I focused last night on what we can do, together, to make sure middle-class economics helps more Americans get ahead in the new economy. And I said that I’d take these ideas across the country. And I wanted my first stop to be right here in Boise, Idaho. (Applause.)

Now, there are a couple reasons for this. The first is because, last year, Michelle and I got a very polite letter from a young girl named Bella Williams — who is here today. Where’s Bella? There she is right there. Wave, Bella. (Applause.) Bella is 13 now, but she was 12 at the time. So she wrote me a letter and she said, “I know what you’re thinking — Wow, what’s it like in Boise, Idaho?” (Laughter.) So she invited me to come visit. And she also invited me to learn how to ski or snowboard with her. (Applause.) Now, as somebody who was born in Hawaii, where there’s not a lot of snow — let me put it this way — you do not want to see me ski. (Laughter.) Or at least the Secret Service does not want to see me ski. (Laughter.)

But what I do know about Boise is that it’s beautiful. I know that because I’ve been here before. I campaigned here in 2008. (Applause.) It was really fun. And the truth is, because of the incredible work that was done here in Idaho, it helped us win the primary. And I might not be President if it weren’t for the good people of Idaho. (Applause.) Of course, in the general election I got whupped. (Laughter.) I got whupped twice, in fact. But that’s okay – I’ve got no hard feelings. (Laughter.)

In fact, that’s exactly why I’ve come back. Because I ended my speech last night with something that I talked about in Boston just over a decade ago, and that is there is not a liberal America or a conservative America, but a United States of America. (Applause.)

And today, I know it can seem like our politics are more divided than ever. And in places like Idaho, the only “blue” turf is on your field. (Applause.) And the pundits in Washington hold up these divisions in our existing politics and they show, well, this is proof that any kind of hopeful politics, that’s just naïve. But as I told you last night, I still believe what I said back then. I still believe that, as Americans, we have more in common than not. (Applause.)

I mean, we have an entire industry that’s designed to sort us out. Our media is all segmented now so that instead of just watching three stations, we got 600. And everything is market-segmented, and you got the conservative station and the liberal stations. So everybody is only listening to what they already agree with. And then you’ve got political gerrymandering that sorts things out so that every district is either one thing or the other. And so there are a lot of institutional forces that make it seem like we have nothing in common.

But one of the great things about being President is you travel all across the country and I’ve seen too much of the good and generous and big-hearted optimism of people, young and old — folks like Bella. I’ve seen how deep down there’s just a core decency and desire to make progress together among the American people. (Applause.) That’s what I believe.

So I’ve got two years left and I am not going to stop trying — trying to make our politics work better.

That’s what you deserve. That’s how we move the country forward. (Applause.) And, Idaho, we’ve got big things to do together. I may be in the fourth quarter of my presidency, but here, at the home of the team with the most famous “Statue of Liberty” play in history — (applause) — I don’t need to remind you that big things happen late in the fourth quarter. (Applause.)

So here’s where we’re starting in 2015. Our economy is growing. Our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our deficits have been cut by two-thirds. Our energy production is booming. Our troops are coming home. (Applause.) We have risen from recession better positioned, freer to write our own future than any other country on Earth.

But as I said last night, now we’ve got to choose what future we want. Are we going to accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?

AUDIENCE: No!

THE PRESIDENT: Or can we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and opportunities for everybody who’s willing to try hard? (Applause.)

For six years, we’ve been working to rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And what I want people to know is, thanks to your hard work and your resilience, America is coming back. And you’ll recall, when we were in the midst of the recession, right after I came into office, there was some arguments about the steps we were taking. There were questions about whether we were doing the right thing. But we believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs back to America. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs. (Applause.)

We believed that with smart energy policies, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. Today, America is number one in oil production and gas production and wind production. (Applause.) And every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. (Applause.) And meanwhile, thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the average family this year should save about 750 bucks at the pump. (Applause.)

We believed we could do better when it came to educating our kids for a competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. More young people like folks right here at Boise State are finishing college than ever before. (Applause.)

We figured sensible regulations could encourage fair competition and shield families from ruin, and prevent the kind of crises that we saw in 2007, 2008. And today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts. And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage, including right here in Idaho. (Applause.)

Now, sometimes you’d think folks have short memories, because at every step of the way, we were told that these goals were too misguided, or they were too ambitious, or they’d crush jobs, or they’d explode deficits, or they’d destroy the economy. You remember those, right? Every step we took, this is going to be terrible. And instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade. And we’ve seen the deficits, as I said, go down by two-thirds. And people’s 401[k]s are stronger now because the stock market has doubled. And health care inflation is at the lowest rate in 50 years. (Applause.) Lowest rate in 50 years.

Here in Boise, your unemployment rate has fallen below 4 percent — and that’s almost two-thirds from its peak five years ago. (Applause.)

So the verdict is clear. The ruling on the field stands. (Laughter.) Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. These policies will keep on working, as long as politics in Washington doesn’t get in the way of our progress. (Applause.) We can’t suddenly put the security of families back at risk by taking away their health insurance. We can’t risk another meltdown on Wall Street by unraveling the new rules on Wall Street. I’m going to stand between working families and any attempt to roll back that progress. (Applause.)

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A guest opinion by Cecil D. Andrus, former Idaho governor, on nuclear waste at the Idaho National Laboratory.

There’s an old country expression that the people of Idaho should take to heart: Keep your eye on the rabbit. In this case, the rabbit is the incontestable threat to Idaho’s economic and environmental future presented by the storage above the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer of nuclear waste, whether liquid, transuranic or solid in the form of spent fuel rods.

It would only take one major seismic event to precipitate nuclear-tainted material migrating to and beginning to infect the aquifer. Idahoans would see a major part of the state’s agricultural economy, particularly the downstream potato, beet, alfalfa and trout farm businesses destroyed, never to recover.

Imagine how deadly one political cartoon showing an irradiated potato “going viral” would be?

One out of two residents in South Idaho obtain their culinary water directly or indirectly from the Snake River and/or the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. If you are one of those two, how would you feel about continuing to draw your household water from a compromised source?

There are several key matters the public should keep in mind.

Gov. Phil Batt’s historic 1995 agreement that, to his lasting credit, he drove through the “Red Zone” was premised on a mutual agreement between the state and the federal government that all nuclear waste above the aquifer was to be removed from Idaho by 2035.

My fellow citizens, you are not going to reach that goal by adding to the waste instead of continuing to draw it down. Gov. Batt said it quite well: “You take an ounce of waste from the federal government, they want to give you 10,000 pounds.”

The issue is not so much what 50 spent fuel rods weigh (EPA states they could weigh up to 1,500 pounds each) that Gov. Butch Otter wants to allow, nor how much revenue-generating research is going to be generated by the spent fuel rods. The issue is that Gov. Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are looking the other way as Idaho’s National Laboratory increasingly becomes the de facto replacement for Yucca Mountain, Nev., as the nation’s permanent repository.

The second fundamental issue is this: Who do you trust to look out for your interests with the “greatest good for the greatest number” as a guiding principle? Is it two governors who between them have served Idaho in one office or another for a combined 80 years and have stood fast against Idaho becoming a dumping ground, or is it a federal government with a long history of breaking promises?

By the way, this is the same federal government that Gov. Otter so excoriated in his State of the State on a number of fronts. Why does he think they can be trusted to serve as “co-guardians” of Idaho’s future?

Gov. Batt and I are giving the people of this great state a solemn pledge that we are going to ask some tough questions in the next few weeks. We intend to get answers. This is not the first time Gov. Otter has sought an exemption. Exceptions quickly turn to norms, and we believe his administration has operated far too long in the shadows on this critical matter.

We take seriously the oath of office we both first took as governors to uphold the Idaho Constitution and to serve the best interests of the people. Though we no longer hold public office, we believe it still applies and we intend to do our duty.

Cecil D. Andrus is a former governor of Idaho.

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A conservation staffer examines sage grouse policy and writes that “Following science is the way to maintain greater sage-grouse.” The writer is Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy and works to conserve endangered species and wildlife habitat on western federal lands.

The Obama administration’s largest proposed land and species conservation initiative – protecting the Greater Sage Grouse – appears to be falling short of promises based on early returns. And while these current federal approaches could do an about face that could ultimately prove successful, that seems unlikely given the analysis just released by conservation groups that is based on the government’s own scientific expert’s recommendations.

The Scorecard for Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation is a checklist of standards to conserve the Greater Sage-Grouse and its habitat that can be used to determine if proposed management plans are effective and based on the best available science. It is available online.

The Scorecard’s standards are the government’s recommendations contained in the National Technical Team report. If followed, the Scorecard is a recipe for conserving grouse habitat, and providing the “adequate regulatory mechanisms” federal agencies need to implement in order to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing of Greater Sage-Grouse as a threatened species next year.

The Scorecard was used to evaluate the Bureau of Land Management’s Lander Resource Management Plan. This is the first completed management plan that addresses the conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse in a critically important sagebrush habitat in Wyoming.

The review finds that the Lander plan fails to meet most of the conservation measures recommended in the NTT report, and based on the best available science is not likely to ensure that conservation measures will be effective in conserving the sage grouse. Because the Lander plan does not pass muster, if the other fourteen management plans follow this Wyoming model, the sage-grouse will likely continue to decline, warranting the species’ protection under the Endangered Species Act.

While the Lander plan did not designate sage-grouse reserves as recommended in the Scorecard, it did designate an extensive 481,000 acre National Trails Management Corridor to preserve historic and scenic trails that also provides some of the conservation standards known to benefit grouse. The Lander plan highlights the need for stronger standards and the potential for designating protected areas in the remaining fourteen resource management plans still to be released.

For the Obama administration, these remaining plans are a golden opportunity to advance public land conservation, provide balance in the face of a stampede of development hitting the region, and leave future generations of Americans a legacy of wide-open spaces that harbor abundant wildlife.

Unfortunately, the Scorecard’s Lander review reveals that unless the Obama administration changes course and starts following the best available science, we are headed for continuing controversy as a result of ineffective management plans, declining grouse populations, and ESA listings.

Fortunately, the Scorecard also provides policymakers the formula needed to change that and to conserve grouse habitat. What we need now is a demonstration of the leadership necessary to make that change happen.

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Last week we listed the county breakdown of recipients of surplus equipment from the Department of Defense – much of which, in widespread complaint, has contributed to a militarization of police forces around the country.

Not all of that equipment, however, has such daunting or military-style uses, and a good deal of what’s included in various categories – such as armored vehicles – is more everyday than the category name might suggest. Chris Goetz, sheriff at Clearwater County in Idaho, wrote in to describe how the DOD equipment his small county has received is being used there.

After reading this week’s Idaho Weekly Briefing I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the article about the militarization of local law enforcement.

The recent events in Ferguson Missouri has put a spotlight on only one part of the program that allows local law enforcement to receive equipment from the federal government. I would like to start with the items specifically list on the NY Times map.

For Clearwater County, Idaho it shows that we received two armored vehicles and four assault rifles. So the first question would be why would Clearwater County need two armored vehicles?

The answer is that the two vehicles that they are talking about are not armored at all. They are two humvees (picture attached) with vinyl doors and a vinyl top which has a hard time keeping a hard rain out let alone bullets. We requested and received these vehicles for use during search and rescue operations. Flooding, landslides and wildfires are thing that we have to deal with at some level every year and these vehicles are a great asset during these events due to the ability to cross small land slides and cross flooded areas that normal vehicles can not handle.

The next question would be, why not use the National Guard during these emergencies? We have tried to use them in the past and it is extremely difficult and expensive to use the National Guard and usually not the best use of resources. Obviously when there is an event like Katrina in New Orleans the event is to large for any local agency to handle and outside resources are needed but when the event is small enough to be handled by local and neighboring agencies why not allow us to have the resources to take care of the event. Because these humvees are not armored the military decided that they no longer had a use for them but they have been a great benefit to us.

The next item are the assault rifles (picture attached). We have four M14, .308 rifles that when you look at the picture is not what most people think of as an assault rifle. You can debate if local law enforcement needs to get this kind of rifle or not from the military. I think the bigger question would be; If local law enforcement did not get these kinds of rifles from the military would they have them or not? I think the answer would be that they would have rifles even if they were not available from the military. For Clearwater County everyone of our deputies are issued a patrol rifle that was purchased by the County. The rifles that we got from the military have already been paid for by the tax payers and were sitting in storage.

We have received other equipment from the military but because it is not an assault rifle or amored vehicle does not get the same attention. Other items that we have received include, generators, sleeping bags, packs, sleeping mats, cold weather jackets, water pumps, trailers, atv’s and a couple pickup trucks. Once again these items are primarily used for natural disasters and search and rescue operations.

clearwatercogun

It appears to me that the story is trying to be spun to show that law enforcement in America is out of control and using weapons and tactics that should only be used on the battle field. This maybe the case in a very few isolated incidents but from my perspective is no where near the norm. When you look at Ferguson, Missouri they claim that the police were acting like the military and then they bring in the military to try and get things under control.

When we talk about some of these military types of equipment and weapons that are available to local law enforcement the questions that come to me are:

1. Would local law enforcement have the weapons or equipment if it was not available from the military?

2. How is this equipment being used and why?

3. If local law enforcement is going to have this type of equipment even if it was not available from the military doesn’t it make more sense to use the equipment that the tax payer has already bought instead of buying it again?

I believe that the best law enforcement is local and specifically the Elected Sheriff’s Office. Yes I am bias being a Sheriff but I have to answer directly to the people of the County. If I am operating in a way that the voters don’t like or acquiring equipment that they don’t think I need they have the ability to make a change. The same is not true when you use the State Police or the Military.

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