LUNA PLAN GAINS TRACTION WITH ROMNEY CAMPAIGN
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney caused a stir in Idaho late last month when he named Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna to his 19-member education policy advisory group.
Romney unveiled his plan for education reform on May 23, and Luna said he has helped mold that plan by working with other members of the advisory group. Idaho’s schools chief said many of the key elements in Romney’s plan closely resemble aspects of Luna’s own Students Come First package. And you all know the dust storm that kicked up.
However you feel about the new limitation on bargaining rights, increased technology in the classroom and shift toward a more pay-for-performance compensation model (or the manner in which Luna presented and implemented them), those are concepts that sit well with conservatives. And Idaho is a conservative state. Many Students Come First detractors use the words “corporate” and “privatize” as though they’re obscenities; most conservatives don’t.
So it makes sense that Romney, a Republican, would share Luna’s vision.
And the fact that the likely challenger to President Obama has named Idaho’s schools chief to his education panel and patterned his plan in a similar fashion gives the Gem State national attention, which is never a bad thing. Whether it signals any future political plans or ambitions for Luna, and how it could help in that regard, is a matter of speculation — and people love to speculate.
Regardless of what happens, it makes for a fascinating election season this fall.
LABRADOR CASTS VOTEWE WON’T FORGET
There’s no shortage of people who think Congressman Raul Labrador is running for governor in 2014. But that can’t be the case. No politician in his right mind would do what Labrador did last week if he intended to ask eastern Idahoans for their support in two years.
Labrador inexplicably supported a draconian cut in the nuclear energy budget. The amendment failed, but had Labrador gotten his wish, the result would have been catastrophic locally, statewide and for the nation.
INL gets about 60 percent of the budget Labrador voted to eviscerate. Cutting it by two-thirds could have led to thousands of lost INL jobs. That’s a death sentence. Imagine eastern Idaho without its economic driver.
Perhaps Labrador feels insulated living so far from eastern Idaho. He shouldn’t. The lab is responsible for about 25,000 direct and indirect jobs in Idaho. Its employees pay hundreds of millions in state taxes. Public schools and universities would have suffered. Unemployment and food stamp usage would have shot up. People’s health care would have disappeared. Why? Because in order to reduce the nation’s $15 trillion deficit by $514 million — not even a drop in the bucket — Labrador would apparently sacrifice us all.
And let’s be clear about something. Labrador’s vote for the final nuclear energy budget — after he supported the INL-killing amendment — does not get him off the hook. He cannot unring that bell. The vital research he voted to end will not get done in the private sector. It’s not feasible. Increasing the nation’s use of nuclear energy — the goal of the work supported by the budget Labrador attempted to slash — is this nation’s best chance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide sustainable energy for a growing economy.
Certainly there will be those who stick by Labrador. But imagine if Areva had come to Gov. Labrador seeking support to build a uranium enrichment facility in Bonneville County.
Would Labrador have facilitated the necessary public-private partnership as Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter did? Or would he turn his back and offer some banal statement about the government not picking “winners and losers?” His vote last week answers that question.
Idaho’s 1st Congressional District representatives, realizing the importance of INL to the state and nation, have historically supported the lab’s mission. With this vote, he sent a clear signal: His loyalties lie with his tea party pals in Washington, D.C.
And that’s hardly the stuff governors are made of.