January 3, 2008
The results are in. The Common Interest's
three new issues for the 2008 legislative session will be:
- Growth Paying for Itself
HERE to review the full results.
LEGISLATIVE ISSUES BRIEF
We will develop briefing materials on three issues that
come before the Legislature in the upcoming session. Short descriptions of 25
of the most important issues likely to come before the legislature are provided
below. We ask that you rate how important it is for us to develop full briefing
materials on each issue. The three issues with the highest average ratings will
be those for which we develop briefing materials. Each member of The Common
Interest will be randomly assigned to review the briefing materials for one
of the three selected issues and then share their views.
We developed the list of 25 issues by inviting input from the Governor, 12 legislative
leaders, and seven members of the press. The issues are listed in order from
the issue most to least frequently identified by these 20 people. If particular
issues seem especially well or poorly-suited for The Common Interest, we note
this in bold, italicized text at the conclusion of the description.
At the end, we also ask for your input on an internal organizational
question. Specifically, some members have asked that we raise our self-imposed
limit on individual annual donations from $250 to $500.
Note that you need to login in order to open the questionnaire
where you rate the importance of us briefing and polling each issue. You can
login using the box in the upper left corner of this page. If you've forgotten
your username or password, CLICK
HERE for a reminder e-mail.
Once you login, the questions will appear on the right
side of your screen. After you answer the questions and hit the submit button
at the bottom of the questionnaire, you should get a message in red letters
at the top confirming that we got your answers. You can come back to the questionnaire
and change your answers as much as you like until the poll closes. A number
of members have asked for more time, so the poll will close at noon on Monday,
Thank you for taking the time to help us pick our issues
for the year. And now, here are the candidates:
1. Transportation (20 of 20, 100%)
Costs for road construction and maintenance have been rising rapidly largely
because of the increased costs of petroleum products and there is a concern
that the federal government may not provide the same level of funding as it
has in the past. The Idaho Department of Transportation (IDT) projects that
it will fall far short of keeping up even with basic maintenance of Idaho's
highways over the next several years, let alone complete new projects that are
needed even though the Legislature passed the GARVEE bond funding mechansim
a few years ago. The backlog is pegged at more than $200 million. Consequently,
IDT has proposed a significant increase in the fuel tax. Since gas and diesel
prices are already so high for consumers, the idea of raising taxes on fuels
is controversial. There is, however, a widespread sense that something needs
to be done.
In many areas, particularly those experiencing high growth, the strain is on
the local road system in addition to state highways. There is a rising concern
that Idaho lacks mechanisms for funding the upgrades to the road system that
growth makes necessary. One idea is to give local governments an option to tax
sales. If approved by voters, local government would be able to use the revenue
for roads and/or for mass transit systems like light rail to ease the pressure
on Idaho's roads. While this idea has been proposed before and has gotten little
traction, the rising tide of citizen frustration with traffic has improved its
chances this year. A broad coalition is working together to propose a bill with
broad support. Some who opposed the idea in earlier sessions now support it.
The Governor, who has opposed the idea in the past, has signaled an openness
to considering this idea now, though he has also indicated that he's less supportive
of using local option sales tax for public transit than for roads. Currently,
it's difficult to predict whether this measure will make it into law.
2. Performance Pay for Teachers (17 of
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has
proposed a program that would reward teacher performance with bonuses. Under
the Idaho State Teacher Advancement and Recognition System (I-STARS) teachers
would get pay increases ranging from $1,200 to $3,600 per year beyond the current
system for teaching in a school that demonstrates improvement or that maintains
excellence in student achievement. Bonuses of $2,400 per teacher would also
be available for working in hard-to-fill positions, forgoing tenure, gaining
expertise and qualifications in multiple subject areas, and for taking on additional
leadership duties. A teacher who qualified for each of these bonuses could thus
earn up to a $15,600 pay increase.
The idea has considerable support in many circles, including
among many legislative leaders. Supporters view this proposal as a way of attracting,
retaining, and motivating high performing teachers. Consequently, supporters
argue, the quality of education in the state should improve. The reception by
the Idaho Education Association, the association of teachers, has been mixed.
Accordingly, most observers are confident this issue will be the subject of
considerable debate in the Legislature this session.
K-12 education has been the only issue that
The Common Interest has worked on without success. Partly, this is because we've
taken on the overall K-12 education budget in the past. For a variety of reasons,
that is an issue on which it is difficult to get traction. The issue of performance
pay for teachers, however, is much more specific and amenable to our process.
It's a topic that lends itself to a dispassionate examination of the substantive
merits. We have considerable credibility with the key players on this important
issue and could likely make the difference on whether it passes or not. We would
probably be wise to choose this as one of our issues this year.
3. Election Reform (16 of 20, 80%)
Election reform is another issue that has previously been ranked as important
by legislative leaders, members of the press, and our members. We picked this
issue last year and were a central player in the extensive debates in the Legislature.
Despite those extensive debates, nothing happened. Nevertheless, a few election
reform issues are likely to be seriously considered this session. The reform
issue getting the most attention is primary elections. The bill that The Common
Interest drafted last session is widely considered the only proposal with serious
prospects for success. Another proposal which had The Common Interest's support
last year, vote-by-mail, will again be introduced in a more modest form. A program
that would provide candidates a voluntary option to accept strict fundraising
limits in exchange for modest public campaign financing will also likely be
We have already briefed and polled on these issues and are prepared
to shape the debate. Nevertheless, we do ask you to rate the importance of this
issue in order to give the Legislature and the press an indication of how this
issue rates in eyes' of Idaho citizens this year.
4. Overcrowded Prisons (15 of 20, 75%)
This marks the third year that overcrowded prisons has been seen as a major
issue by a large majority of legislative leaders and members of the press. Two
years ago, overcrowded prisons was mentioned as an important issue by more legislative
leaders and reporters than any other issue but property taxes. Our membership
agreed this was an important issue two years ago, and selected it as one to
investigate. For a variety of reasons, however, as the session began it had
become clear that the significant proposals that had been discussed prior to
the session would not receive serious consideration, a circumstance that was
repeated last year. Consequently, we did not complete our brief and poll our
members on this issue in either of the last two sessions.
The overcrowded prisons problem has only become more pressing in the time that
the three governors and the Legislature have punted on this issue. A recent
report estimated that $1 billion would need to be spent on new prisons in the
next ten years, half of that within the next five years. There is an increasing
consensus that a significant debate will occur on this issue this session. Part
of why it is more likely a serious discussion of the issue will occur is because
Corrections Corporation of America, which employs powerful lobbyists, is making
a major push for the issue to be discussed. They are proposing that Idaho make
it legal to build private prisons here that can house inmates from other states.
They argue that this will make it financially attractive to corporations like
theirs to build prisons here. In turn, they argue, that will economically benefit
the state generally and will provide a way for Idaho to house its own prisoners'
that is more cost effective than the state building its own prisons.
While Governor Otter has been open to this approach, many others argue that
private prisons are a bad idea. Bringing out-of-state prisoners creates a range
of problems, they suggest, including that if prisoners commit another crime
while here, they will become Idaho's own prisoners. Furthermore, they argue
that the evidence is that private prisons have not been more cost effective
than state prisons in the long run.
Many are concerned that the debate over public vs. private prisons will forestall
what they consider the more important issues for consideration, such as whether
there are alternatives to incarceration and more effective programming in prisons
that are worth pursuing in addition to simply building more prisons. Many think
these are particularly important issues to address given the increasing portion
of inmates who are in prison for drug-related crimes and questions about how
effective incarceration is alone for dealing with this population. Many also
point out that if powerful corporations are making millions housing prisoners,
they will have incentives to keep the prison population high rather than to
develop and run effective programming that will reduce the likelihood that prisoners
commit new crimes once they're released.
We are currently developing our brief on this issue so that we
will be prepared to advocate The Common Interest's positions this session. Nevertheless,
we do ask you to rate the importance of this issue in order to give the Legislature
and the press and indication of how this issue rates in eyes' of Idaho citizens.
5 (tie). Eliminating Tax Loopholes (11 of 20, 55%)
An interim committee addressed the issue of whether Idaho had granted too many
tax breaks that benefit particular groups but do not serve the broad public
interest. Given the central and widely praised role we played in the property
tax debate and that last year we picked tax loopholes as an issue on which we
would take a long-term proactive look, The Common Interest was invited to present
to the interim committee. Drawing on results from our property tax brief and
poll, we added our voice to the general support expressed in the committee for
eliminating many of these loopholes and lowering the overall tax rates. We also
offered our analysis that many of the tax breaks currently on the books were
the results of special interest political dynamics rather than compelling evidence
that they served the public interest.
In spite of widespread agreement with and support for our view, no concrete
legislative proposals were recommended. The committee did adopt a recommended
set of criteria against which tax breaks should be judged. Despite the lack
of formal legislative proposals from the interim committee, some of the powerful
members of the interim committee will likely propose bills that would close
loopholes and lower tax rates. Given the failure of the interim committee to
agree on concrete proposals, the chances that such a bill will succeed this
session are low.
Given that little is likely to happen this session and that we
have already chosen to do a longer-term investigation of this issue, it's probably
advisable that we not choose this as one of our topics for this session.
5 (tie). Reducing Grocery Taxes (11 of 20, 55%)
Wide consensus had emerged prior to last session that
something should be done to reduce or eliminate the sales tax on groceries.
While this issue has come up previously, it had gained new momentum as a result
of the recent increase in the sales tax from 5 cents to 6 cents. The sales tax
increase was passed in a special legislative session convened in August, 2006,
by then Governor Risch in order to replace revenues lost because the Legislature
also voted in the special session to eliminate property taxes for schools (except
for voter approved supplementary bond levies). One of the major arguments against
eliminating the property tax for schools and raising the sales tax was that
sales taxes fall disproportionately hard on lower income families because essential
purchases, such as groceries, take up a greater share of their income. Elimination
or reduction of the sales tax on groceries would address this issue.
While there was a broad consensus that something should be done about the sales
tax on groceries last session, a wide variety of ideas have been mentioned about
exactly what should be done. Democrats called for the total elimination of the
sales tax on groceries. Recognizing how much revenue is lost by a total elimination,
many Republican legislators said that sales tax should be reduced, perhaps to
3 cents, on groceries. And still others, most notably Governor Otter, said that
the state income tax credit for what individuals spend on groceries should be
dramatically increased for those with lower incomes and for seniors on fixed
incomes. Despite the consensus that something should be done, no consensus emerged
behind any of the concrete proposals offered.
Governor Otter has said he will again call for a solution
along the lines he outlined last year and Democrats have said they will again
advocate for total elimination of taxes on groceries. However, if anything,
the prospects for any of these proposals appear to be worse this year than last
and most expect nothing to happen.
5 (tie). Eliminating Personal Property Tax (11
of 15, 55%)
Property tax in Idaho is assessed not only on real commercial
property like land and buildings, but also on "personal property."
This includes property not directly involved in production like furniture, equipment,
computers, phones, etc. for offices. It is extremely complicated to comply with
state law on this count and extremely difficult for the state to enforce compliance.
Consequently, compliance rates on this property tax are low.
The business lobby has argued persuasively that this form
of property tax should simply be eliminated. It's very difficult to find anyone
who will defend the personal property tax as a good tax. However, there are
two substantial obstacles to eliminating it. First, despite the low compliance
rates, this tax still brings in many millions in tax revenue. If it is eliminated,
that revenue would need to be replaced somehow. Second, since personal property
tax is paid by business, elimination of this tax would substantially shift the
overall tax burden from businesses to individuals.
One idea that has been discussed is to eliminate a different
business tax break, the production exemption, in exchange for removing the personal
property tax. That would keep tax revenues roughly the same and would not shift
taxes from business to individuals. This exchange is likely to be proposed and
discussed in this session. It's not entirely clear at this time, but the prospects
for passing appear to be low.
8. Water (10 of 20, 50%)
Because much of Idaho in an arid climate that typically
receives 12 inches or less of precipitation a year, water is always a concern.
Several developments have heightened concerns. Much of the state has experienced
drought in seven of the last nine years. With increasing evidence of global
climate change, there is an increasing sense that these dry years are becoming
the norm rather than the exception. The state's fast growth rates have put water
at an even greater premium.
In addition to these general problems, unique regional
water challenges have emerged in most regions of Idaho. The problems associated
with insufficient water, particularly during drought, to meet all the demands
in the Snake River Basin from Twin Falls east almost to Wyoming have been around
for years now and continue to increase in intensity. Depending on pending legal
actions, many farmers, business, and cities that pump water from the Eastern
Snake Plain aquifer in the Magic Valley may be ordered to turn off their pumps
or at least reduce their pumping, with significant economic consequences. Northern
Idaho also faces water problems, particularly around the Rathdrum aquifer west
and north of Coeur d'Alene. In the Treasure Valley, rapid growth has raised
new water issues, particularly proposals for more than 20,000 new homes in the
foothills north of Eagle.
Various proposals are likely to come before the legislature
to address these problems. In north Idaho, controversy surrounds whether the
Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) should commence the North Idaho Adjudication,
a legal process to assess, document, and validate all water rights in North
Idaho. IDWR will request funding for a study of the water supply and demand
in the north Ada County foothills. Some proposals may come forward to address
the over-allocation problem along the Snake in south-central and eastern Idaho.
9. Health Care Accessibility and Affordability (9 of 20, 45%)
Health care costs continue to put increasingly financial pressure on individuals
and families, businesses, and county and state governments. Many are suggesting
that the state needs to address this problem. In response, the Governor
held a two-day health care summit in August. The summit produced a number of
recommendations that have broad support conceptually. Several recommendations
were aimed at the shortage of doctors and nurses in Idaho. Other recommendations
were aimed at improving Idahoans' diet and exercise habits. The summit participates
recommended new health care delivery models that would increase early and preventitive
care and decrease the expensive use of emergency rooms.
Perhaps the most significant recommendations regarded health insurance. Summit
participants recommended that an insurance policy be made available to all individuals
in the state that would emphasize preventive, early, and catastrophic care and
that would be more affordable than what is typically available to individuals
now. Greater affordability would be achieved, in part, by drawing on the state's
ability to pool the risk of many individuals. The summit participants took this
idea a step further. They also recommended a state requirement that all individuals
carry such a policy just as the state requires car insurance. The program would
include a sliding scale of subsidies for those who could not pay for such a
policy themselves. This model has recently been adopted in Massachusetts and
While many of these ideas have broad conceptual support, most of them will
require significantly more detailed development. For example, the programs requiring
individual insurance and providing sliding scale subsidies took immense amounts
of policy development and negotiation before they passed the Massachusetts and
California legislatures. Most observers don't expect much substantive progress
on the summit recommendations in this session of the Legislature, though many
are hopeful that the recommendations will be a useful beginning to more detailed
policy discussions that will lead to measures passing in future legislative
Last year we chose to conduct a longer-term, proactive investigation
into the affordability and accessibility of healthcare. We are currently taking
steps to get funding for such an investigation. Given this decision and that
little will likely happen this session, it's probably advisable for us not to
choose this as one of our issues for this year.
10. Early Childhood Education (7 of 20,
Currently, Idaho does not provide education prior to kindergarden.
In fact, local schools are prohibited by the state from offering it. Citing
research on positive effects of early childhood education and the fact that
39 other states have state-funded early childhood education, supporters introduced
a bill last session that would have provided optional pre-kindergarden education
in Idaho. The provision was optional in the sense that local schools would have
the option, but not the requirement, of providing pre-kindergarten education
if they found their own funding for it. It was also optional in the sense that
parents would have the option, but not the requirement, of sending their children
to such a program. The measure was defeated, with opponents arguing that young
children are best cared for and taught in the home. The debate on this measure
produced some of the most controversial statements of the session. This year,
early childhood education proponents are planning to respond to the concerns
expressed last session by proposing a bill that would create a commission which
would submit a final report by December 1, 2008 containing recommendations for
ways to help parents be their child's first teacher.
11(tie). Government Ethics and Lobbying Reform (6 of 20, 30%)
Three proposals to raise the ethical requirements in government
will be proposed this session. The first bill would increase the financial disclosure
requirements for registered lobbyists. With 392 registered lobbyists in the
state, more than three lobbyists for every legislator, this bill's supporters
argue that it's important to bring additional sunshine to this aspect of state
policy making. The bill would require lobbyists to disclose their salaries,
spending on or gifts to officials' family members, and their business associations
with officials' family members. With a majority of states requiring these lobbyist
disclosures, the Center for Public Integrity gave Idaho an "F" grade
because our lobbyist disclosure laws do not include these common requirements.
The second bill would require certain kinds of financial
disclosure for public officials and candidates. Currently, although 47 other
states and the federal government require public officials and candidates to
file personal financial statements, Idaho does not.
The third bill is proposed in the wake of numerous examples
in Idaho in recent years of individuals leaving government and taking jobs,
often at higher pay, lobbying the branch of government or agency they had just
been working for. The bill would prohibit individuals from such lobbying for
one year after leaving the government's employment. A majority of states and
the federal government have such "revolving door" laws requiring a
one or two year cooling off period.
Since making sure that special interests don't trump
the common interest is one of our aims, this would be an important and appropriate
issue for us to consider. These proposals may receive more serious consideration
this year then they've in recent years.
11 (tie). Childcare and Daycare Licensing (tie,
6 of 20, 30%)
Last year a bill was introduced and defeated that would have required more
child-care providers to undergo background checks, safety inspections and first-aid
training. Shortly after that defeat a national study came out that gave Idaho
the lowest score of the 50 states for child care center standards and oversight.
That has given the issue increased attention and the proposal will be reintroduced
11 (tie). Energy (6 of 20, 30%)
An interim committee on energy recommended a new state energy plan last January.
That plan recognized challenges Idaho faces in maintaining what has been some
of the most affordable electricity in the nation. In particular, a number of
pressures make it likely that the low costs of generating electricity from hydroelectric
power and from coal will increase. These are the two chief sources of electricity
in Idaho. Other electric energy concerns include transmission issues. While
the company that had proposed building a coal-fired electricity generating plant
near Jerome has now abandoned its proposal, there is still a concern about the
state's lack of regulations governing the siting of such plants. Various proposals
may come before the legislature this year to deal with one or more of these
14. State Liquor Licenses (5 of 20, 25%)
Idaho currently requires a license to sell liquor. Since
the state keeps a strict limit on the number of total liquor licenses, these
licenses have become very valuable. They can be sold by those who currently
have them to others who want to sell liquor. Governor Otter has expressed concerns
about the way the state system works and the fact that the state creates, in
effect, this market for expensive liquor licenses. He has suggested it may be
wise to change the system.
15 (tie). Growth Paying for Itself (4
of 20, 20%)
As the third fastest growing state in the nation, Idaho faces considerable
growing pains. Some of the most pronounced are the pressures on local governments
to accommodate the increased demands created by growth. Many contend that that
growth does not pay for the costs it imposes and argue that it should. Several
proposals to do this will likely come before the Legislature. One plan would
be to increase the extent of impact fees that local government can assess and
to increase the ease with which local governments can establish such fees.
A second plan is being proposed by developers and would make it possible to
create infrastructure improvement districts. These would be districts that could
levy property taxes to pay for new infrastructure in new development areas.
Some have opposed this approach because, they argue, it would actually make
taxpayers pay for more and developers for less of the infrastructure their developments
Since many of the impacts of growth that are most keenly felt are the impacts
on roads and highways, a third plan is local option sales taxes. As mentioned
above it would give local governments the option, with voter approval, to impose
their own sales tax to fund road improvements or public transit.
A fourth plan would change the way new construction is treated in terms of
property taxes. Currently, local governments are limited to budget increases
of no more than 3% per year, except for the value of new construction. Consequently,
some feel that the current system provides an inappropriate incentive for cities
and counties to approve new development as a means of increasing their budgets.
This proposal would dedicate half of the revenues from new construction to improvements
to roads in a given city or county.
15 (tie). State Employee Compensation (4 of 20, 20%)
A concern that low compensation is making it increasingly difficult to attract
and retain high quality state employees will likely generate proposals to make
state employees' compensation more competitive.
15 (tie). Elk Farming and Shooter-Bull Operations (4 of 20,
One or more bills are likely to come before the Legislature to further regulate
or ban elk farming operations, particularly "shooter-bull" operations
where people can pay to go and shoot a domestically raised elk. Long viewed
with scorn by some, the issue gained greater urgency after 160 domestic elk
escaped from a shooter-bull operation in Ashton, less than forty miles from
Yellowstone National Park. Aside from the scorn many hunters and others feel
for the unsportsmanlike idea of paying to shoot a domestic elk on a farm, there
is a concern that domestic elk could infect wild elk with disease. Although
the regular testing of domestic elk herds by Idaho's Agriculture Department
have not detected the feared diseases such as brucellosis or chronic wasting
disease at this point, some domestic elk in Montana did test positive for chronic
wasting disease several years ago and Montana banned domestic elk operations
as result. Wyoming also has banned these operations because of this concern
and the governor of Montana has called on Idaho to do the same.
18 (tie). Darfur Divestment (3 of 20,
A bill will be proposed in the Legislature that would require
the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) to sell its holdings
in 13 specific foreign companies with significant investments in Sudan. This
divestment bill, similar to bills that have recently been passed in 22 other
states, is aimed at creating economic pressure to get the Sudan government to
stop what the U.S. Congress has declared to be genocide. For over four years
the government in Sudan has sponsored ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region.
Over 400,000 innocent civilians have been killed and more 2.5 million have been
driven from their homes and are now dependent on humanitarian aid. The United
Nations calls the situation the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
US companies are already prohibited from doing business
in Sudan. This summer the Congress took steps to encourage divestment from foreign
companies doing business there. The House of Representatives passed a bill by
a vote of 418-1 that would encourage the 23 state retirement systems that have
not yet divested from foreign companies doing business in Sudan to do so. The
Senate version passed unanimously out of the Senate Banking Committee which
includes Idaho's Senator Mike Crapo and the final bill is expected to pass into
law by January.
Divestment is broadly supported as an effective influence
tool partly because the government is dependent on foreign investments but little
benefit from those investments are enjoyed by the Sudanese people. Most foreign
investments in Sudan are in the oil and gas industry. The government receives
70% of the resulting royalties and revenues which it uses to support the military.
Divestment is also supported because it proved to be an effective tool in helping
to end apartheid in South Africa.
The Idaho public employee retirement system (PERSI) owns
stock totaling approximately $33 million in 13 foreign companies that have been
widely targeted for divestment because their extensive business with the Sudan
government. This $33 million comprises less than a quarter of 1% of PERSI's
holdings. The bill would give PERSI 15 months to complete reinvestment of these
funds. Eighteen other states are currently considering similar measures, with
many expected to pass this year.
This may be a particularly worthwhile issue
for The Common Interest to investigate for several reasons. The magnitude of
the human suffering has caused concern in the U.S. that transcends the usual
political divides. Conservative evangelical Christians and liberals have united
to create the divestment movement, giving it impressive momentum quickly. Despite
the breadth of support for these measures, this bill did not make it out of
committee in the Idaho Legislature last year. Both Republican and Democratic
legislative leaders have suggested to The Common Interest that our involvement
could make the difference this year.
18 (tie). Treatment for Drug Abuse and Mental Health
(3 of 20, 15%)
There has been a growing consensus that the treatment services the state provides
for drug abuse and mental health issues are inadequate, particularly following
the quite negative conclusions of an Office of Performance Assessment's evaluation
of state services. Several changes have already been undertaken, including a
significant reorganization and change in staff at the Department of Health &
Welfare, the creation of the Office of Drug Policy, and an interagency committee
to coordinate the state's drug abuse efforts. Many still believe that more needs
to be done. There may be a number of proposals come forward in this session
of the Legislature to deal with these issues. One significant idea that may
be discussed is creating a separate agency to address drug abuse and mental
health issues. Another probable proposal would create a mental health hospital
within the Department of Corrections.
20 (tie). K-12 Education Funding (2 of 20, 10%)
K-12 education funding has been near the top of
the list of major issues identified by legislative leaders and reporters in
the three previous years we've done this. It is near the bottom this year largely
for two reasons. First, significant increases in K-12 funding passed the Legislature
last year. Second, most of the attention with respect to the public school budget
this year focuses on the teacher merit pay proposal mentioned at the top of
the list. Nevertheless, Idaho per student spending remains one of the lowest
in the country and so it is still seen as an issue.
Last year, members supported having us take a long-term
proactive look at what, if any, specific new investments in K-12 education would
be worth making. We are taking steps to get funding for such an undertaking.
Accordingly, K-12 education funding generally may not be issue we're well advised
to take on in this particular session of the Legislature.
20 (tie). Property Taxes (2 of 20, 10%)
Besides the personal property tax issue described above,
two additional suggestions for changes to Idaho property taxes may be considered
this year. First, Governor Otter has suggested that Idaho adopt a provision
similar to California's Prop. 13 which would cap the property tax assessment
on a home at it's level when it was purchased until the home was sold. This
proposal was considered during the massive property tax deliberations in the
2006 session. Because of a number of unintended consequences with this measure
has had in California, it got little traction. The Common Interest also briefed
this proposal during that session and a majority of our members opposed it.
Few think that this idea will get traction in the coming session. Partly, this
is because the measure to index the homeowner's exemption to the Idaho housing
price index continues to limit the degree to which homeowners' property taxes
increase. The homeowner's exemption was expanded to $75,000 in 2006. Because
of the housing price index, the exemption will be a little over $100,000 next
The second property tax measure that will come before the
Legislature this year is the one mentioned above in the discussion of growth
paying for itself. This proposal would dedicate half of the revenues from new
construction to improvements to roads in a given city or county, in part to
address the congestion on Idaho roads and in part to end what some consider
to be an inappropriate incentive for local governments to approve new development.
20 (tie). Higher Education Funding and Faculty Pay (2
of 20, 10%)
Higher education in Idaho has faced two simultaneous funding
challenges in recent years. First, enrollment in the state's public colleges
and universities has increasing rapidly. Second, the costs of higher education
have been rising faster than inflation. Consequently, the costs borne
by students for education have risen dramatically, over 100% over the last ten
years. These costs have increased faster than higher education costs in
any other western state. Idaho ranks 45th of the 50 states
in terms of the percentage of its high school graduates going to college. Last
year the Legislature took steps to address this problem by providing additional
funding for need-based scholarships. Some are suggesting that still more needs
to be done. This year there is also more discussion particularly about the need
to increase faculty pay to retain high quality higher education in the state.
20 (tie). Wolves (2 of 20, 10%)
Since they were reintroduced to Idaho several years ago,
wolves have done better than most expected. Concerned that the impacts on livestock
and other wildlife not increase further, some are supporting a proposal that
would make it legal to hunt wolves in order to maintain the population around
its current level.
20 (tie). Dogfighting (2 of 20, 10%)
After Michael Vick, the former quarterback for the Atlanta
Falcons, was indicted and then confessed to participating in a dogfighting ring,
there has been a rising tide of attention paid to state policies on this issue.
A proposal will likely come before the Legislature to make dogfighting a felony
20 (tie). Idaho Medical School (2 of 20,
As mentioned above, one of the concerns about accessibility
of health care in Idaho is that there are too few doctors here. Some, including
Governor Otter, have suggested that Idaho should establish its own medical school
to address this problem. Many argue this is not a cost-effective, practical
way to address the problem and the proposal appears to have poor prospects in
the Legislature this session.
Question on Limits on Donations to The Common Interest
When we started three years ago, we chose to impose on ourselves a limit of
$250 in annual donations from any one individual. Since we aimed to address
the disproportionate influence of special interests, we thought that it was
important to have internal organizational limits to prevent being influenced
ourselves. Several members have indicated they'd like to give us more than $250
per year. The board and Keith Allred have discussed this issue and believe that
we could appropriately raise the limit from $250 to $500 without exposing ourselves
to special interest influence. We do feel it is important to maintain this self-imposed
limit at no more than that level. This is a citizens' organization, however,
as so this is ultimately a decision for the membership. Accordingly, the last
question on the poll asks you whether you would support or oppose raising the
limit to $500.