Friday, March 29, 2013


Idaho may have to change its name.

Even though the state has never been famous for the number of millionaires who’ve made fortunes here, residents’ incomes have always ranked somewhere in the middle of the states.

No more. Idaho is now threatening to displace Mississippi as dead last.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently ranked Idaho’s per capita income at 49th in the nation, with only Mississippi’s being worse. Idaho dropped eight places between 2000 and 2010, the most recent date for which data are available.

In its race to the bottom, the state sank below Oklahoma, Utah, Alabama, Louisiana (host to disastrous hurricanes and oil spills), Montana, New Mexico, Arkansas, and West Virginia.

Former Idaho state economist Mike Ferguson, who spent 25 years working under six different governors and who now directs the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, says the drop may be no coincidence. He told the Boise City Club recently that Idaho’s tax policies—tax cuts totaling up to $350 million over the past 12 years—have put the state where it is today.

The cuts punished education, a major economic driver, and other public services that in earlier recessionary periods had kept money flowing into the state’s economy until times got better.

So, what are Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature doing to avert letting Idahoans’ per capita income hit bottom? Why, of course, they’re cutting taxes—again. On Tuesday with a 35-0 vote, the Idaho Senate sent $20 million in personal property tax relief for businesses to Otter’s desk. Now, either property owners will have to pay more or the cuts will come out of the hide of local schools and county services.

Goodbye, Idaho. Hello Idassissippi.

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