Friday, March 13, 2009

Idaho lawmakers' tax scheme ignores point of stimulus

Never let it be said Idaho politicians lack ideas for blundering into national headlines.

On Thursday, every state but -- guess who? -- Idaho had an official attending a special conference where President Obama and Vice President Biden discussed state apportionments in the stimulus program. Was Idaho's nonattendance Red State pique?

For good measure, two Idaho lawmakers dreamed up a scheme that even GOP colleagues looked on as, well, crackpot.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, of Star, and Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, of Oakley, want $45 million of the $1 billion stimulus spending set aside by President Obama for Idaho to be spent on a cut in income taxes for Idaho residents and corporations.

Using a rump estimate of Idaho's taxpaying population, the cut for individuals would come in under $100 or less on average.

Were this fiscal absurdity adopted by lawmakers and signed off by Gov. Butch Otter, would Idaho dip into stimulus money in subsequent years to ladle out tax cuts and keep taxpayers content?

Other Republicans responsible for the state budget -- budget co-chairs Rep. Maxine Bell, of Jerome, and Sen. Dean Cameron, of Rupert - immediately saw the nonsense in the idea.

"Foolishness," cracked Cameron.

"How can you do that in this climate" when funds for education are being cut, asked Bell.

The Moyle-Bedke plan lacks any economic literacy. Their idea is pure rightwing ideology.

They dislike Obama's stimulus plan, calling the more than $800 billion "funny money." They turned to their iconic political patron saint, the late President Ronald Reagan, for wisdom.

"I've been asking, 'What would Ronnie do?'" Moyle said.

Reagan left office 20 years ago. He didn't have two wars to fight or terrorism, climate change, millions of jobless Americans or history's largest debt on his hands. Looking to the mythic 1980s Reagan for 2009 solutions is just silly.

Instead of asking what Reagan would do, Moyle should have noticed what people do when they get tax rebates: They bank them. The U.S. savings rate has skyrocketed since last spring when the first rebates were issued even as jobs have vanished.

Businesses that manage to survive the economic free-fall and employees who retain their jobs are likely to be giddy with joy to be paying taxes this year.

Words President Obama spoke in Washington on Thursday to state officials who're managing their share of the stimulus bill should be sufficient to end the Moyle-Bedke mischief.

"If we see money being misspent," President Obama told the officials, "we're going to put a stop to it."

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