WestViews: Cheers and jeers

August 26, 2013 

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Lewiston Tribune

JEERS ... to U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. Crapo may not be as cynical as his latest political ploy suggests — but neither is he the idealistic Boy Scout Idahoans sent to Washington, D.C., two decades ago.

Case in point: Crapo’s belated support of a fringe GOP congressional threat to shut down the federal government unless Obamacare is stopped.

It was bad enough that Congressman Raul Labrador and Sen. Jim Risch, both R-Idaho, had already signed up. More likely, the standoff will hurt Idahoans who either work for the government or depend on its services.

By the time Crapo became the 13th recruit to sign Utah Republican Mike Lee’s letter, five other Republicans came to their senses and bailed out.

Crapo is one of the few remaining congressional veterans of the 1995 government shutdown who is still in office.

And when the Idaho Statesman’s Robert Ehlert pressed Crapo about his decision this week, he minimized the prospects of a real shutdown while blaming Obama if it happens.

Crapo is no fool. He knows better than this.

CHEERS ... to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter. The governor had logic, corporate support and the best interests of Idahoans in mind when he promoted a state-based health insurance exchange.

Otter detests Obamacare, but the choice wasn’t about killing the national health care measure. If the state didn’t operate the exchange, the feds would step in.

Better service for Idahoans, less disruption for Idaho health care providers, preserving some Idaho jobs in the health insurance industry and keeping Idaho health insurance premiums lower meant taking on the more rabid anti-Obamacare members of his own Republican Party.

Otter is the only Republican governor presiding over a Republican legislative majority to pass a state-based exchange.

JEERS ... to Idaho school Superintendent Tom Luna. Three years ago, Luna blindsided his fellow members of the State Land Board, including Otter, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.

That board is charged with managing endowment funds for eight state programs, the largest of which is public schools.

Luna insisted the board withdraw an extra $22 million of endowment funds for schools. It was good politics for Luna, who was on the eve of a re-election campaign. Luna portrayed himself as the champion of beleaguered public education budgets.

But it was bad policy for the endowment — which relies on volatile timber receipts and stock market investments. To maintain a predictable flow of yearly payments, financial advisers want the state to maintain a five-year balance. Because Luna gave them no warning, land board members couldn’t adequately defend the principle and the reserves were drawn down.

Well, it worked once. Now facing another re-election cycle, Luna wants to pull this stunt again. He would draw down reserves another $6 million for a total of $36.9 million — which will leave the endowment about two years short of what it needs.

Of course, there’s one big difference. Idaho is putting money in the bank. Its tax revenues continue to exceed estimates.

And if schools are underfunded, where has he been? On his watch, Luna’s fellow Republicans in the Legislature have cut taxes rather than restore education budgets — with hardly a whimper from the state’s chief public education officer.

He fooled everyone once.

Shame on him.

Now he’s trying to fool everyone twice.

Shame on us.

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