Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mother Idaho’s apron strings


The state of Idaho treats its residents like kids who lack the sound judgement to make decisions on their own behalf.

The Legislature has consistently refused to allow city or county residents to impose local-option sales taxes even if voters approve them.

A statewide business coalition is mulling whether to try to seize this authority with a voter initiative. We hope it does.

In 2008, the Idaho Senate killed a bill authorizing cities and counties to impose local-option sales taxes between .10 percent and 1 percent with two-thirds voter approval.

The sales tax revenue could have been used for "any city or county purpose" spelled out clearly to voters.

The high bar of approval, along with requirements for a public hearing and a detailed explanation of how the tax proceeds would be spent, should have allayed fears of frivolous tax hikes. It didn't.

Legislators chose instead to keep cities and counties firmly attached to Mother Idaho's apron strings.

After all, if voters could choose to impose taxes on themselves they might go hog wild. Boise, Nampa and Caldwell might build a light-rail system to relieve dangerously clogged freeways. Small communities might improve roads, bridges and sidewalks or emergency daycare or recreation services. Crazy, huh?

Idaho's conservative legislature is famous for passing memorials to Congress demanding more control in the name of "states' rights." It's more than ironic that Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature refuse to believe that city and county voters are smart enough to control even one-tenth of 1 percent of their own destiny—even if they pay for it themselves.




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