Remember The Forgotten Man (The Taxpayer)
Idaho’s Budget Priorities
by Rep. Ronald Nate – District 34
Taxpayers are the forgotten men and women in Idaho. For years now, tax dollars coming into the state coffers have grown, grown, grown. And, Idaho government has spent, spent, spent. But, have we reduced tax rates, or tried to control spending in ANY meaningful way? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Instead taxes have been RAISED further, and government has grown, grown, grown. And, last year we even BORROWED money for roads.
We are entering this 2018 session with over $300 million in tax dollars flowing to the capitol ahead of projections. Idaho owes it to every taxpayer to return every penny not needed for the limited and proper role of government. The legislature has a responsibility to restrain government to the leanest of budgets, and let hardworking families keep the fruits of their labors.
We can and should repeal sales taxes on groceries, and reduce personal and business income taxes. This can all be done without any budget cuts. We simply need to stop the wasteful spending increases. The forgotten taxpayer deserves respect.
Each legislative session begins with the Governor delivering his annual State of the State Address. Our 2018 Session started on Monday and Governor Otter spoke for nearly an hour on our state’s economy, education, healthcare, and budget issues.
As is usual recently, the Governor recited a buffet of his new and growing spending plans. While there are truly some needs, like continuing to provide teacher pay increases so we can be competitive with surrounding states in getting and keeping good teachers, the lion’s share of the Governor’s spending was excessive.
Overall, he proposed a budget (once all adjustments are accounted) spending increase of over 9.2% more than the previous year. Now, I’m not sure how many Idahoans got a 9.2% raise last year, but the Governor sure thinks the state government deserves that kind of a raise!
Fortunately, the Legislature does not have to accept the Governor’s recommendations. We can look at other priorities to best meet the Constitutional requirements, keep government lean, eliminate waste, and leave more money in Idahoans’ wallets.
Looking at this 2018 legislative session, here are a few alternative general priorities for Idaho: lower taxes, competitive and excellent education opportunities, education freedom, government transparency, reducing regulations, and restoring lost liberties.
When I visit schools in Madison and Bonneville Counties, I make it a point to ask about the current state of our local education. Administrators tell me some teacher openings are difficult or impossible to fill for lack of quality applications for those positions. This is especially true in key areas such as mathematics and science. The Career Ladder has helped, but we could be smarter about it.
If we would stop adding new programs to our education system, as we seem to do every year, we would avoid new spending items competing with teacher pay every subsequent year. We can also re-direct existing education spending toward teacher pay. We have more than enough education funding already, but too much is spent on administration, regulation compliance, reporting, and bureaucracy.
Last year I found $101 million in overall excess spending we could have avoided. That’s enough to provide every one of Idaho’s 16,000 teachers a $6,700 raise. And we should allow for differentiated pay. If mathematics and science teachers are most scarce, we should be able to increase pay specifically for those teachers.
Education also needs to provide freedom of choice. Parents and students should have every opportunity to choose the best education to meet their needs and wishes. As good as our local education is already, a one-size-fits-all system can’t possibly meet every student’s needs. Repealing state mandates for Common Core, SBAC testing, and other standardized testing will allow local districts to makes the best choices.
We need full government transparency when local bonds or levies are proposed. Often there are conflicting estimates and claims about the eventual costs to taxpayers. This is easy to fix. If ballot measures for government borrowing included simple financial disclosures for voters and taxpayers, then they would be able to vote based on complete information rather than conflicting and probably biased estimates of the cost of borrowing.
Other lost liberty concerns include gun rights, data & privacy security (education, medical, and other areas), land use freedoms, business regulation, and private property rights, just to name a few.
Idaho is a great state, but it’s not perfect. There is always something we can do to improve education, government, and liberty. Usually this means reducing government and spending, not expanding them. Hopefully, with the support of District 34 and fellow legislators, I can do my part to help Idaho become even better.
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