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Rep. Ronald Nate – District 34 – Feb 1st

Bills being kept in the drawer subvert our representative government.

Rep. Ronald Nate - District 34 - Feb 1st

Rep. Ronald Nate – District 34 – Feb 1st

Time for Tax Cuts

Since 2011, Idaho tax revenue has increased by an average of 5.4% per year.  This is strong growth in state revenues following the so-called “great recession.”  Now, put this number beside the growth in state spending over the same period.  The state’s spending (appropriations) from the General Fund are growing faster and have exceeded revenue growth in 6 of the last 7 years.   

In the last 3 fiscal years, revenues have come in higher than projections.  Clearly, Idaho does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem.  We are over-taxing and then over-spending.  It is time for tax reductions.

Compared to Idaho’s surrounding states, Idaho has a worse business tax climate than all of them.  Five of our six bordering states rank in the top 10 for favorable business tax climate (Tax Foundation, 2016).  Washington is at #17, and Idaho is the worst at #20 nationally.  But there’s more.  Five bordering states have only two of the three big taxes: sales tax, personal income tax, and corporate income tax.  Only Idaho and Utah have all three; and Idaho has higher rates than Utah in all three. 

So here we are.  Revenues growing fantastically, and other states with more favorable tax structures.  Because of our balanced budget requirement in the Constitution, in lean years, we can’t afford tax cuts; so prosperous years present the only opportunity to reduce tax rates and become more competitive.  And, 2017 sure looks like the right year.  Currently, we have $130 million more in the state coffers than we planned to have at this point.

Here’s my idea of a freedom-friendly, family-friendly, economy-friendly tax plan:  Repeal the tax on groceries, reduce personal and corporate income tax rates to 7.0% over two years, and increase the property exemption to $200,000.  All this can be done for an estimation of around $80 million less in revenues going forward.  One income tax reduction bill has been introduced, H67, and that is a good start.

Some may complain about too much being “spent” on tax cuts.  I disagree.  We never “spend” on tax cuts.  Reducing taxes is not spending…it’s the opposite…it’s actually NOT state spending.  To have $80 million less in state revenue means Idahoans have $80 million more to spend themselves.  I almost always prefer to have individuals with more money to spend rather than the state legislature with more money to spend.  And, over time, the economic growth makes the tax revenue grow too.  So the amount of “lost” revenues will most certainly be lower, and possibly non-existent.

Now is our prime opportunity to reduce tax burdens on Idahoans.  Lowering taxes means more economic growth, more individual liberty, and less government encroachment.  All good things in my book. 

Expel Common Core and the SBAC Test

Idaho bought into Common Core standards and testing in 2010.  Seven years later we see, as with so many other grand plans to save public education, Common Core is a bureaucratic, politicized, and expensive mess.  The standards are ideologically loaded, sketchy in method, and untried and untested for effectiveness.  The standardized testing for Common Core, known as the SBAC test (Smarter, Ballanced Assessment Consortium) has been frustrating for schools, teachers, parents, and most importantly the children.  It costs a lot of money (nearly $30 per child) and uses a lot of time to administer (9-13 hours).  Only 13 states are using the SBAC test now, and sadly, Idaho is one of them.

Repealing Common Core and repealing the SBAC test as state mandates is the issue I hear about most when talking with Idahoans.  Almost everyone is less than satisfied.  Perhaps there are some schools, teachers, and parents who like the curriculum and testing, but they are few and there is no reason to force the flawed and cumbersome system on the entire state.

I have submitted two bills to the House Education Committee to repeal Common Core as a state mandate and to repeal the SBAC test similarly.  Districts and their locally elected school boards should be able to choose for themselves the programs and assessments that work best for their families and schoolchildren.  That’s why we have local school board elections.

Many good things can be done in Idaho when citizens speak up.  If you want to express your voice about Common Core and the SBAC test, you can and should contact the House and Senate Education Committees in the Idaho legislature.  Here are the links to the Committee members and chairs:  Senate Education Committee and House Education Committee.

The picture at the top of this story is me with some of the concerned citizens of Idaho who turned up on the Capitol steps on a very cold morning last Monday.  The “Buck the Core” rally featured Dr. Geoffrey Thomas (Madison School District Superintendent), Russ Fulcher (former State Senator), and Dr. Duke Pesta (Wisconsin Professor and Advocate for repealing Common Core).  I am energized when I see good people rally around an important cause such as preserving education freedom in Idaho.  My thanks go out to Tammy Nichols, Mila Wood, and Rep. Dorothy Moon who worked very hard to put the rally together.  It was great!

Unlocking the Drawer – Bills Should Be Heard

This week I am presenting constituent bills to committees.  These are called print hearings, where a bill sponsor (me) presents the RS (request slip) of the bill before the subject matter committee (Transportation Committee for example).  If the committee approves, the bill is then “printed.”  Getting printed means the bill is assigned a bill number, posted on the legislature website, and is then ready for a full public hearing in a committee.  At the public hearing, the committee either votes to send the bill to the full House for a vote, or votes to kill the bill.

Often, however, good bills never get a full hearing in a committee.  This is because committee chairs choose to not schedule a print hearing or to not schedule a full hearing (after printing) and thereby keep the bill “in the drawer.” 

Bills being kept in the drawer subvert our representative government.  One committee chairman may stop a bill even though only a few Idahoans had the opportunity to vote for the chairman (in his/her district).  Representatives in the committee and in the full House will not get the opportunity to debate and vote on the bill.  Representative government stalls.

Some legislators in Boise are working to change the process.  We want to change the rules or the traditions in place that are stopping the representative government from working.  Legislators should have the ability to present all bills, engage in open and fair debate, and have up or down votes on their bills. 

Here are the bills I’ve submitted to committees so far, some have already been scheduled for hearings (and hopefully all the chairman bill drawers will be unlocked):

Repeal Common Core

Repeal the SBAC Test

Resolution to allow/encourage gun safety classes in high schools

Front license plates optional on some vehicles

Allow electronic publishing of government public notices

Allow city initiative and referendum elections in all years

Fix omission in law allowing homeowners to do electrical work on their property

Transparency in bonding costs on tax notices and assessments

Repeal the state Health Insurance Exchange

…plus more to come!


Growing Freedom – Get Involved!

Please visit the Growing Freedom Idaho website to help all citizens be more involved with what is going on in the Idaho Legislature and how to effectively make their voices heard.  The site includes a Freedom Agenda of legislation brought to the legislature by citizens and is what liberty minded legislators are pursuing this session.