Idaho leaders ignore ‘kitchen table’ issues | Opinion

This editorial was published by the Idaho Press of Nampa

Now that the 2022 legislative session is heating up in Boise, we’ve noticed a deep disconnect between the kinds of issues that concern the majority of regular Idahoers and the topics that the Governor and Legislature have been proposing so far.

These “kitchen table” issues are what Idahoans have been asking for for years, but many have recently been pushed aside in favor of the priorities of the special interest groups of a strong extremist minority.

In our view, Governor Brad Little and the Legislature should prioritize:

l Support education and educators.

It might also be prudent for our government leaders to recognize the pandemic which is not only underway, but continues to worsen and push the hospital system back to crisis care standards.

Home prices have skyrocketed, and with them, property taxes since 2016, when lawmakers capped property tax exemptions for homeowners and ended indexed increases in the exemption linked to house prices.

Last year’s property tax bill, House Bill 389, slightly increased the homeowner’s exemption, but reduced the “circuit breaker” tax relief program for low-income seniors while providing tax breaks for developers and businesses. Local municipalities have widely criticized the move, and many homeowners have felt the blow, especially seniors on fixed incomes.

Many Idahoans could be helped by simply increasing the exemption and upgrading the circuit breaker.

Given these significant issues, the income tax cuts proposed by the Governor and the huge $75 rebates that the majority of residents will receive from them – the largest rebates being reserved for the wealthiest residents and corporations – seem a little deaf.

This is also true for the recently proposed bill that would prohibit local governments from regulating fees or deposits for residential rental properties. The timing of such a proposal couldn’t be worse; an analysis of the city of Boise’s housing, presented to the city council in August, found that 67% of renters here could not afford the housing the local market is producing. Since last year, rents have increased by 20% and wages in the area are far behind the rise in house prices.

The housing issue, although not the only factor, is also linked to the labor shortage here. It is difficult for many companies to attract talent to the region, especially for lower-paying jobs such as those in the service sector. Until this issue is resolved, get used to slow service.

The state has proposed ways to address its own worker shortage by raising the wages of state employees, but the statewide issue has yet to be discussed. Improved access to and affordability of child care in the state should also be a boon for parents who want to work but cannot. This could be especially beneficial for women.

The governor’s proposed budget included $47 million for early literacy funding in Idaho schools, which would be enough to fund all-day kindergarten. We consider this an important step, but there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to schools in Idaho.

Focusing on how to support Idaho students and teachers will be critical to our state’s success. Continuing to pander to special interest groups and their hot culture wars, for example by attacking critical race theory (which is largely not taught in schools) or social-emotional learning (which does not seek to help children manage their emotions), will only erode the credibility of our schools and further discourage educators, making it difficult to recruit the best teachers.

We realize this is a primary year, and some lawmakers in the running may find it risky to address some of these issues – but that’s no excuse for not meeting the needs of the people of Idaho.

Who will emerge as the true leaders of this session, ready to tackle these vital issues head-on? We’ll be watching carefully, because we can’t afford to wait any longer.

About Ian Crawford

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