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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Nov 28 - Dec 4, 2001


Forget the tax cuts; spend on schools

Scrooge shows up every holiday season, one way or another.

This year, heís taken up residence in Gov. Dirk Kempthorneís body. In fact, we suspect he may be inhabiting his body.

Kempthorne recently ordered spending reductions of 3.0 percent for most state agencies and 2.5 percent for educationĺ the stateís biggest ticket item.

Idaho tax revenues are coming in below predictions. Thatís no surprise given the recession. Without adjustments, Idaho wonít be able to balance its budget, which it must do under the Constitution.

Ordinarily, spending holdbacks would make sense. However, Idahoís budget picture isnít ordinary.

Last winter the Legislature took the extraordinary step of using a third of a $341 million surplus on permanent tax reductions. It spent the rest on buildings, a Medicaid shortfall and fire suppression.

Of the $114 million tax reduction, individuals got about 60 percent and businesses got the rest.

Kempthorne said it wouldnít be fair to exempt education from spending cuts because it would force all other agencies to carry the burden of balancing the budget.

So, while K-12 schools crumble and universities struggle, taxpayers will pay less.

Thatís not fair. Itís like depriving the kids of paper and pencils while Mommy and Daddy plead poverty, build a new house and stuff the money in a new mattress.

Sept. 11 highlighted the cost of ill-advised stinginess.

Americans, who had just finished endorsing their tax rebate checks, awoke to find that their intelligence, emergency services and disease control agencies had been so woefully under funded they did not function well in the crisis.

Thereís not an American alive today without 20-20 hindsight. Better and smarter funding for the CIA and the FBI might have averted the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. A better equipped Center for Disease Control would have helped in the anthrax attack. But hindsight comes too late.

Stinginess toward basic education, the foundation of the nationís future is no less foolish.

It makes no sense for Idaho to provide investment credits to businesses to create jobs if young people are not trained adequately to fill them.

Kempthorne should ask the Legislature to revoke all or part of the tax reductions. Idaho needs to give its kids more than starvation education ó recession or no recession.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.