Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Money vs. mercy

Idahoans packed hearing rooms at the state Capitol last week to beg the House Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to stay the axe it has aimed at medical services for poor, sick and disabled residents.

The stories of the families and individuals that testified were heart wrenching and illustrated that even the strongest families can be driven to the brink of financial disaster and personal despair by undeserved and unexpected misfortune.

JFAC members, who are tasked with plugging a gaping $185 million hole in the state budget, listened with tears in their eyes.

The very same day, Republican House Speaker Lawerence Denney shifted a bill that would enable the state to tax online sales from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee to the House Ways and Means Committee—the place where bills are sent to die. Collecting sales tax on online purchases by residents could mean millions in new revenue for Idaho.

However, the message was loud and clear: Money talks and mercy walks.

The Republican majority is on the verge of turning its back on the mentally and physically disabled in order to stick to an ideology that ranks corporate interests in avoiding equal taxation above all others. Unless something changes fast, corporate online profits will continue to grow while critical services for the weakest and most powerless citizens will shrink.

Denney's action was so alarming that Democratic Rep. Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum sent out an e-mail appeal exhorting constituents to contact state leaders to try to save the bill that's being called the Main Street Fairness Act.

The act would join Idaho with 25 other states to convince Congress that the states should be able to tax online sales the same way they tax bricks-and-mortar retailers. Otherwise, the state leaves millions in revenue on the table each year while putting hometown retailers at an unfair disadvantage that threatens their survival.

Residents should heed Jaquet's call to action. They may contact the speaker at, or Majority Leader Mike Moyle at

Phone messages for both may be left by calling (800) 626-0471.

Those who write or call should insist that the bill be referred back to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee for a hearing.

Without fair taxation, Idaho could quickly become a hard, cruel place, inhospitable not only to the sick and injured, but to people of ordinary means who need good education, good jobs and communities that work.

Have mercy.

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