LOCAL OPTION ORLOCAL NECESSITY?
Our take: By suggesting local option taxes as a way of offsetting the elimination of the hated “personal property tax” on business equipment and supplies, Gov. Butch Otter has offered a framework for discussion.
The Times-News, Twin Falls
Having successfully pushed partial responsibility for public school funding to the local school district and the safe haven of the supplemental levy, Gov. Butch Otter suggested Monday that the state do much the same thing again — with cities, counties, colleges and all other local taxing entities.
The governor wants to eliminate the business equipment tax, more commonly and more erroneously referred to as the personal property tax. When the tax is removed — and $141 million is taken away from cities, counties and other local taxing districts — the governor wants those tax districts to come to you and ask you to vote on whether you’d like them to maintain services that would otherwise be cut.
In short, the governor wants to replace the personal property tax with a local option tax. Except the local option tax is the euphemism for a plan to create a tax rather than being a true replacement.
Interestingly, the governor auditioned his proposal to eliminate personal property tax with the media Jan. 4 and emphasized his commitment to “do no harm” to funds that local taxing bodies rely on. In his State of the State address three days later, Otter said that his proposal “isn’t necessarily about using state revenue to make counties ‘whole.’ ” So much for do no harm.
This is not to say that the local option tax is without merit. Currently allowed only in “resort” communities, we editorialized in its favor a year ago as a way of providing cities and counties to pay for something that their residents wanted enough to pay for. We like the emphasis on “option.”
Monday’s proposal would make the local tax more of a necessity than an option. Just like local school districts have been forced into asking residents to approve supplemental levies to backfill state funding shortfalls, cities and counties would need to do the same to replace a net loss of $121 million.
Eliminate the personal property tax, Mr. Governor? Perhaps.
Eliminate the personal property tax while doing no harm to local taxing districts, Mr. Governor? Not even close!
We hope the Legislature says “No” to the governor’s plan and demands from themselves a more thoughtful and far more thorough solution.
KICKING THE KING
If you’re going to kick the king, kill him.
Last week, Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador kicked the king — House Speaker John Boehner.
Labrador was among a dozen Republicans who opposed Boehner. Technically, Labrador didn’t vote. Boehner won with 200 votes — six more than he needed.
Talk about irony. Idahoans elected Labrador over Democratic Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick in 2010 because they wanted to replace Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a Republican. Yet it was Pelosi and the Democratic minority who gained the most from Boehner’s humiliation. They now know how weak a hand the GOP leader holds.
It’s one thing to oppose a speaker on a policy issue. To fight him on a leadership contest just invites a reaction.
So far it hasn’t happened.
Labrador retains his seat on the Judiciary Committee, a perch from which he can pursue immigration reform. But Republican leaders need Labrador on that issue if they’re ever going to make inroads with a Hispanic vote that went heavily Democratic last year.
Payback is likely to be more nuanced. Where Labrador — and his constituents — are likely to suffer is in the myriad details of legislation.
Such as the emergency farm disaster relief provision that disappears in a conference committee.
The provision in a water infrastructure bill to help the Port of Lewiston that evaporates.
Or the complaints about national forest road closures that go unanswered.
The scarce firefighting resources that get allocated to wildfires elsewhere.