Our View: Were 2014 accomplishments worth cost?

March 22, 2014 

idaho legislature, boise, house, senate, statehouse

Rep. Janet Trujillo (R-Idaho Falls) on the floor of the House of Representatives at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, ID on Thursday March 20, 2014.

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

One of the oft-repeated facts about the just completed session of the 62nd Idaho Legislature is that it cost us $30,000 a day.

When you divide that among the 1.59 million Idahoans (2012 census) it comes out to, well, less than 2 cents per day, per person. We are wondering if you think you got your 2 cents worth on any given day.

On some days we feel the Idaho dairy lobby and the National Rifle Association got much, much more than their allotment with the passage of the "Ag-Gag" and guns on campus legislation which, after much heated debate, whistled through with landslide votes and swift signatures by Gov. Butch Otter. Trespass bills were already on the books to protect agribusiness, and the phantom problems that necessitate gun-wielding students to thwart hypothetical attacks will need time to merge with reality.

Just before the Legislature convened Jan. 6, Day 1 of a 74-day run, we presented a list of issues we wanted addressed: education reform, prisons, Medicaid expansion and transportation funding. We got about 50 percent of our money's worth.

We do think all Idahoans will receive dividends from education reforms suggested in Otter's Task Force for Improving Education. A 5.1 percent K-12 budget increase is to be applauded, but as a number of Democrats have pointed out, this just gets us back to funding levels of five years ago and doesn't signal "education is the No. 1 priority."

Though there was some discussions of prisons and reforms - which we welcome - it seems there could not be a deeper discussion because of the shift from private to state management plans and confusion over whether the present private managers had been or should be investigated.

Those who wanted to hear the Legislature debate Medicaid expansion and transportation funding were stiffed.

If the Legislature was still in session and we could get our two cents in, we would ask them to return to a biennial schedule and reserve election years for special sessions or to discuss only the budget and one or two large topics. This year - with its limited accomplishments and its fixation on certain off-track topics - could have been an example of a special session year where ONLY education reform was discussed, and the $30,000 a day saved could have been applied to the cause.

Too late now. For those of us unhappy with how the time and money was spent, here is our suggestion: Now that we are relieved of paying to keep the lights on in the Statehouse, we may pay attention to people who want to return there in December 2014.

If you feel the elections stole from conversations that otherwise could or should have happened, the May 20 primary and Nov. 4 general election await the investment of your vote.

"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service