Editorial Roundup: Idaho

Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:

And the 2021 hypocrisy award goes to ...

April 15

The Lewiston Tribune

The Idaho Legislature may not go home for weeks, but already, the session’s prize for blatant hypocrisy has been claimed.

And this year, that distinction goes to the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Last week, the IFF successfully called for defeating the Idaho Division of Welfare’s annual budget. Included within that budget — and the source of IFF’s ire — was federal coronavirus relief for the state’s struggling child care operators.

The idea behind this aid — contained within the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act signed by former President Donald Trump — was to maintain the infrastructure of child care providers during the pandemic. Much as it propped up the airline industry and colleges and universities, the federal government decided it would be cheaper and less disruptive to keep these businesses alive than to attempt to rebuild them once the economy recovered.

Not only did the initial response to COVID-19 shutter many child care providers, but the ongoing pandemic ultimately reduced the number of children who were enrolled, further depressing revenues. Costs kept rising, however, while staff continued to turn over.

As a result, child care providers have been running out of reserves. Since September, approximately 200 Idaho child care facilities have closed their doors. Working Idahoans already face child care shortages, a situation that can only get worse as the economy recovers and the job market improves.

So the Trump administration package authorized $58 million in relief for Idaho child care. Lawmakers approved spending $24 million of that in the fiscal year that expires on June 30.

The Division of Welfare budget was authorized to distribute the remaining $33.7 million for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

But Idaho House members had other ideas.

By a 42-to-27 vote, they killed the budget. Joining them were five of north central Idaho’s six House members — Priscilla Giddings of White Bird, Mike Kingsley and Aaron von Ehlinger, both of Lewiston, Brandon Mitchell of Moscow and Charlie Shepherd of Pollock.

Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, not only voted for it, but was the unlucky floor sponsor.

What could account for such a turn of events?

As Clark Corbin of Idahocapitalsun.com noted, the Freedom Foundation gave the bill a thumbs down — which meant anyone supporting it would get dinged on its Idaho Freedom Index.

“The overall increase for this budget is 20.2 percent over prior years, with a 28.8 percent increase in federal funds,” IFF Vice President Fred Birnbaum wrote. “Put simply, we are passing on debt to our children and tomorrow’s children to pay for child care today. This is not sound public policy, and no way to ensure a bright future for our children.”

When the House vote concluded, IFF tweeted: “Great news.”

Missing from all this angst about “passing on debt to our children and tomorrow’s children” was the IFF’s enthusiasm for its own slice of federal coronavirus bailouts.

A year ago, IFF collected $129,883 from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

That was more than a little out of character for this bastion of libertarianism, but IFF President Wayne Hoffman said he had no choice; the socialists made him do it.

“The government shut down Idaho’s economy, Idaho businesses, and therefore the donors who we depend on to generously support our work. Meanwhile, we also knew that pro-socialist groups would have no problem whatsoever accepting all the money they could from the government. We decided it only made sense to do the same. That’s not our preference, of course, but the actions of the government left us little choice,” Hoffman said.

When he got called on it, Hoffman railed at this page and other media outlets — and then added: “Government compensation for economic loss is consistent with the principles of liberty. We believe in limited government. And we also are well aware that there are times that the government deprives people of their freedom, and for that they must be compensated.”

Hoffman insists PPP was a loan — and perhaps IFF will be among the small handful of bailout recipients who repay that loan. But until that day, the source of IFF’s coronavirus aid was every bit as borrowed from “our children and tomorrow’s children” as the assistance for child care operators.

The only question is what is more essential to ordinary Idahoans — the availability of care outside the home for their children? Or the survival of another Boise-based political think tank?

Online: The Lewiston Tribune

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No king by committee

April 14

Idaho Mountain Express

In its latest bid to become “king” of Idaho, the Legislature approved a bill that would make it nearly impossible to get a citizens initiative on the ballot.

Senate Bill 1110 is sitting on Gov. Brad Little’s desk awaiting his signature.

He should veto the bill and send a message that he will not be party to this effort to undermine citizens’ right to govern themselves when the Legislature fails to do its job.

A veto could make Little the recipient of more ire from the Legislature’s radical right, but one more drop in the ocean of derision he’s received from lawmakers this year shouldn’t sway him.

The bill would transform the steep hill that initiative supporters must climb into Mount Everest.

Currently, initiative backers must collect valid signatures from at least 6% of qualified voters in the previous election in at least 18 legislative districts to get a measure on the ballot.

SB 1110 would require signatures from all of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, nearly double the present requirement.

Consequently, even though a majority of voters might support an initiative, a tiny minority in a single sparsely populated county could keep it off the ballot entirely.

The bill is nothing less than undisguised and mean-spirited retribution against voters for approving a 2018 initiative to expand Medicaid in Idaho.

For seven years prior, Republican lawmakers had refused to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion under Obamacare that would have provided health care for Idaho’s estimated 62,000 uninsured residents. It was partisan pique at its worst and most harmful.

Voters should tell the governor that he has their unequivocal support for halting the Legislature’s retributive rage. They should urge him to hit the stop button on the legislative shredder before their constitutional right to government “of the people, by the people and for the people” is mutilated.

Idaho doesn’t need a king, even a king by committee.

Online: Idaho Mountain Express

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One little letter, one big difference

April 9

Coeur d'Alene Press

Not sure if this should be a history lesson, a spelling lesson or a psychoanalysis session — or all of the above. But a single dropped letter in a local Republican email accidentally puts our local political situation into perfect perspective.

Three times in the email, the writer, serving in a volunteer capacity for the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, meant to refer to the local Reagan Republicans club. The point of the email was to encourage recipients “to keep up the pressure!” on guest speaker Bill Brooks, a county commissioner who had been scheduled to speak about potentially different forms of government. “Please show up and tell him to stop this madness,” the email implored.

What’s funny, though, is that all three references to the Reagan Republicans were written “Regan Republicans.” Not Reagan, as in Ronald, but Regan, as in Brent.

Reagan is a former U.S. president of some note.

Regan is chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.

It might actually be more accurate to refer to the local Republican club as the Regan Republicans, because Republicanism in Kootenai County has sadly taken on more of the image of the local leader than the other guy.

And that’s why traditional Republicans lament the party takeover by Regan, Brent and his followers, many of whom are fairly recent arrivals to our community. More traditional Republicans would prefer to see the party functioning at least remotely like it was done by Reagan, Ronald — the “big tent” of a party that welcomed different views so long as society as a whole benefited.

Brooks declined the ambush after facing the equivalent of a firing squad last week. Attendees at that “Republican” meeting weren’t interested in hearing Brooks talk; they already had decided that nothing good can come from allowing the citizens of Kootenai County to consider if there might be a better way of governing than having three commissioners rule the roost.

Regardless of what their critics might say or do, Brooks and fellow Commissioner Chris Fillios are determined to let a process play out — a process that terrifies Regan, Brent and his followers because they perceive some threat to their attempted stranglehold on local politics. The stranglehold depends largely on keeping things just as they are — which has resulted for many years in every county elected position being held by a Republican.

That’s no longer enough. Now, Republicans running for any office, partisan and nonpartisan alike, must swear fealty to the central committee or face opposition and ostracism.

For the record, Brooks and Fillios, a duo demonized by the same Republican Central Committee that tried hard to defeat them in their last election, are both Republicans. They’re conservative Second Amendment allies, fiscal hawks, principled men working hard to represent all county residents.

You could say they’re a lot more like Reagan, Ronald than Regan, Brent.

Online: Coeur d'Alene Press