Idaho’s fiscal situation is dire again this year, and our legislators are shouting to the rooftops that raising taxes is essentially off the table. I suppose the main reason they’d give is that it’s a bad idea to raise taxes in a recession because that would tend to choke off growth. I’ll grant them that.
I think that is a pretty convenient excuse, however. I think there are other reasons that most of them refuse to even consider raising taxes. First, many of them see this as an opportunity to shrink government. Well, okay, that is a pretty popular sentiment among some Idahoans, though certainly among not all of us. Our legislators have an obligation to make the right choice for the citizens, and simply pandering to the I-hate-government crowd is not leadership. A skilled and educated work force is essential to attracting decent paying jobs. Cutting education, especially higher education, just to “starve” government is short sighted.
I was at some meeting a few years back and some guy, dressed like a farmer, or similar outdoor worker, in well worn work clothes stood up to object to taxes. He specifically objected to taxes for the library. He said “My kids are grown; I don’t have any use for a library.” That particular world view – that I don’t need to contribute to society unless I directly benefit from that contribution – is distressingly common in Idaho. I suspect many of our legislators share this view, or at least are happy to cater to this view to curry favor with the voters. But, see above, leadership.
Second, many of the legislators are craven. They don’t want to hurt their re-election chances and they believe that they’re safer in slashing government programs than in raising revenue. Mostly they’re right in that belief. The people who are hurt by losing government services aren’t really voting members of their constituency. Again, see above, leadership.
In the end, citizens get the government they vote for. Idahoans are happy to be at the bottom of too many measurements of a successful society. I say, thank God for Mississippi, or we’d be dead last. I don’t understand it, but there it is.
My daughter graduated from ISU last May. I really wish she’d stay around here, but I don’t want her to have to work for the crappy wages available in Idaho. Unfortunately, I’m going to encourage her to leave the state. And when my son graduates from BSU in a couple of years, same thing.