STATE OF THE STATE: Will Idaho take steps in 2014 to brighten the outlook for families, individuals and businesses?
By Wayne Hoffman | Idaho Freedom Foundation
I know that lawmakers are going to consider fixes to the state insurance exchange rather than repealing it. But I can always hope.
This Legislature and this governor put in place this disaster that many, including me, are calling “Ottercare.” And if they intend to continue with implementation of President Obama’s signature law and government takeover of health care, they’ll need to address their own failure in 2013 to create the proper oversight that allowed the state insurance exchange to be a hotbed of cronyism and secretiveness.
Additionally, I’d argue, since they believe in the insurance exchange so much, they should insist that they be subject to the exchange, instead of being recipients of a very generous state government health insurance program.
As Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, told me recently, it’s hard for lawmakers to really understand what the rest of us are going through when legislators themselves are on a rich health insurance policy.
Gov. Butch Otter has said his top priority for 2014 is getting re-elected, but I hope that he’ll take a moment to consider the 2014 Legislature as another opportunity to remove the stifling barriers to economic opportunity in the state.
Each year, I publish a list of ideas that the governor and lawmakers can take up to help brighten the outlook for families, individuals and businesses. Some find my list to be the State of the State they wish they’d hear. Maybe this time some of them will be. This year’s suggestions, in no particular order are:
- Tackle taxes — again. Lower them. Eliminate one or more vehicles of taxation. Reject Internet sales taxes, higher fuel and sin taxes. Cut some of the auditors at the Tax Commission who are making it difficult to do business in the state.
- On education, make substantive reforms that open the doorway to innovation and choice in education. Table the monolithic and shortsighted Common Core education standards.
- Pass a budget that begins to end our addiction to federal money and get the state budget back on a diet where it belongs.
- Pass criminal justice reforms that lead to shorter sentences for nonviolent offenses, and stop the injury to taxpayers.
- Recognize the state insurance exchange for the mistake that it is. Repeal it. Pass real free-market health care reforms. Reject government health care expansion.
- Reject new proposals for corporate welfare, including special interest tax incentives, grants and awards for government-sanctioned activities.
- Reject proposals to increase the minimum wage, and reject occupational licensure proposals that make it harder for people to experience economic opportunity and mobility.
- Pass measures that increase government accountability, transparency and ethics. Lawmakers should start with themselves and make it crystal clear to the casual observer when they have a conflict of interest on bills before the Legislature.
- Reform the pension system, at minimum, by getting private-sector lobbyists off of government pensions and ending special deals for legislators who become full-time government officials.
- Continue reforms to get urban renewal agencies under control, and get the Land Board out of private sector businesses.
Whenever the Legislature meets, we’re told that our elected officials are going to great lengths to protect freedom and keep government limited and under control. I can safely say that, in the aggregate, I’ve never actually seen that happen. While some lawmakers are effective and unabashed in their support of limited government, most support bigger government by a mile and without a second thought.
Yet I continue to be optimistic that this is the year the Legislature and the governor will surprise me. We shall see.
Wayne Hoffman is president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.
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