Archive for January 4, 2013
“I'm swearing off alcohol and I am not going to continue to drink,” Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo told reporters today in a conference call after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge in Alexandria, Va. Crapo said he believes public officials should be held to higher standards, the AP reported, and he believes his constituents are disappointed by his conduct. But he said he doesn't think the arrest will derail his political career, and he hopes that by giving a full explanation of the circumstances, he can regain the public trust.
“I fully intend to continue to try to make a contribution in the United States Senate,” Crapo said, adding that he expects to run for the office again in 2016.
He said he'll walk to work, take a taxi or make other transportation arrangements while his license is suspended over the next year, the AP reported. As long as he remains on good behavior, Crapo won't have to serve a 180-day suspended jail sentence. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a charge of failing to obey a traffic signal; click below for a full report from AP reporters Rebecca Boone in Boise and Matthew Barakat in Alexandria, Va.
Only eight states have no personal property tax on business property, attorney and CPA Rick Smith of Hawley Troxel said at today’s AP Legislative Preview. Still, he urged its repeal in Idaho. “It gives Idaho an opportunity to get out in front on this issue,” Smith said. “Here is a reason to come to Idaho.”
Dan Chadwick, executive director of the Idaho Association of Counties, said, “I don’t think there’s any question that the personal property tax is a lousy tax, it’s hard to administer.” But, he said, “It’s the cards we’ve been dealt.” The tax is a significant source of the funding that provides public services in many Idaho counties, he said. “Caribou County stands to lose $2.1 million out of their budget,” if the tax is repealed, he said. “That’s a small county and that’s a large chunk of their operating budget,” about 40 percent. “We’d have to find a way to replace those dollars. It is not going to work, simply to say ‘figure this out.’”
Former longtime chief state economist Mike Ferguson offered a different view: He noted that the personal property tax is in the Idaho Constitution, it’s been part of the taxing structure in which Idaho’s economy has thrived for many decades, and he said repealing it would be “a misguided public policy decision and wrong for Idaho.” Ferguson noted that Idaho’s school districts would lose $38.6 million in funding – nearly as much as the $38.9 million counties would lose. School districts would see their property tax bases shrink by between 20 and 50 percent, making it that much harder for them to persuade local voters to pass property tax overrides – because it would take higher tax rates to raise the same amount of money.
Ferguson also noted that a few large companies would be the main beneficiaries; Idaho Power, for example, accounts for a third of all the operating property subject to the personal property tax in the state; operating property, such as utility lines and pipelines, is a significant chunk of the value on which personal property tax now is collected.
Things got a little heated at the end of the legislative leaders panel this morning at the AP Legislative Preview, when House Speaker Scott Bedke said the $44 million in the school budget that was allocated to the voter-repealed “Students Come First” reform laws might not stay with schools, now that those programs have been repealed. “There are people that are eyeing that,” he said, for purposes including eliminating the personal property tax on business property.
“Our caucus would be adamantly opposed to that,” House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, responded. “The schools need that money. It makes sense to reappropriate that in a manner that allows them to use it. I think the outrage over taking money for public schools and putting it to pay off a personal property tax that basically would go to the largest companies in the state is something that not only our caucus would find objectionable.”
Bedke said, “But don’t keep telling me then that we ought to do nothing because the voters have spoken.” He said if the Legislature were to do nothing on education policy because of voters’ rejection of Props 1, 2 and 3 in November, school districts would be left without that money this year. Asked if he personally supports taking the money away from schools, Bedke said he’s the speaker now, not just an individual lawmaker. “I’ve got 57 perfectly good Republican caucus members, all of which have got great ideas,” he said. “I want to hear what they have to say.”
After the panel discussion, Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill said he doesn’t support shifting the school money to pay for personal property tax relief. But he noted that all state agencies and programs took funding hits during the recession. “Is it fair that education keep all the money?” he asked. “It needs to go back to the appropriations committee, and they need to divvy it up in an appropriate way.”
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo pleaded guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated in Alexandria, Va. today, and apologized for his actions. Crapo was ordered to pay a $250 fine, complete and alcohol safety program and have his driver's license suspended for 12 months. Click below for a full report from the Associated Press. Outside the courtroom, Crapo said he had been drinking vodka and tonic at his Washington home on the night of Dec. 22, became restless, couldn't sleep and went out for a drive. He had been driving for about 30 minutes when he realized he was in no condition to drive and started to return home, he said. It was then that he ran a red light and was pulled over in the D.C. suburb of Alexandria, in the early morning hours of Dec. 23.
“I am grateful, truly grateful, that no one was injured,” Crapo said. He said he has, in the past year or so, been drinking alcohol on occasion, in violation of his LDS religious beliefs; he apologized for that as well, and said he'll “carry through on appropriate measures for forgiveness and repentance in my church.”
When a questioner noted that lawmakers will be working on ethics issues next week – all legislators will go through an unprecedented half-day of ethics training - Senate President Pro-tem Brent Hill said, “We’re always working on ethics issues.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke said a draft revised ethics rule is circulating in the House and likely will be addressed early in the session. “It would include a formal standing ethics committee,” he said, along with provisions regarding “how they would carry out their responsibilities.”
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said Idaho is one of the few states without an independent ethics committee to oversee lawmakers’ conduct, and it should establish one.
Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said the health insurance exchange issue won’t go to the Health & Welfare Committee in the Senate this year – it’ll go to the Commerce Committee. “That’s an insurance issue,” Hill said, explaining his thinking.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, “We are going to have to face some real monumental issues.” He said the minority party has been out talking with voters, and is bringing back some messages. “They want a Legislature and government that’s open, honest, and focused on the constituents’ needs, on their families and their future opportunities,” he said.
Addressing reporters at today's AP Legislative Preview, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “I think what we need to do here … is to keep in mind that the voters have spoken, and to try to do the best we can to honor the message that they’re sending to us. .. It’s obvious that we need to have evidence-based recommendations for education,” and for teachers and parents and education professionals to be involved in that, she said. “They don’t want us politicians necessarily in the center of all that, and we have to hear that.”
House and Senate leaders are speaking now at this morning’s AP Legislative Preview. Said new House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, “Every other person, nearly, in the House of Representatives is new. And there’s a lot of new chairmen. There’s been a lot of shuffling around. We can talk about these issues, but that’s going to shape the legislative session in a major way on the House side.”
Said Bedke, “I’m very encouraged and excited to work with these new people. This is a very accomplished group, broad spectrum, very diverse life experiences. They’re smart, they’re eager to be here and eager to be involved, and there’s some energy that I haven’t noticed before. And I’m looking forward to really incorporating these new people and their ideas into some of these old problems, and we’ll see what comes of it.” He promised “some interesting times.”
Gov. Butch Otter, asked about the question of nuclear waste in Idaho, declared, “We are not going to become the dumping ground for nuclear waste.” He said, “I have no disagreement with Gov. Batt’s 1995 agreement. I thought it was great when he got the agreement, I thought it was great when we established a ‘get out of Idaho by 2035,’ and I see no reason to change that. What I do see is the failure of the federal government and a potential conflict with them, because of their failure to open Yucca Mountain on time or at all maybe.”
Asked about Idaho’s vacant governor’s mansion – which is costing the state nearly $180,000 a year in upkeep - Gov. Butch Otter said it’s not up to him what the state does with the home of his late former father-in-law. “What you could do with $180,000 a year in the classroom, that would make a pretty good difference,” Otter said. “But on the other hand, what if a person gets elected governor, say six or eight years from now, that has a family, and actually comes from northern Idaho or eastern Idaho … and has a large family? Remember there are only two bedrooms in that house.”
Here’s what Gov. Butch Otter had to say this morning on the issue of a state-run health insurance exchange: “Let me just say from the outset on that, I see nothing wrong, or nothing liberal, or maybe even nothing conservative, about preserving all of our options,” he said, “and to back away from the table and just say ’you folks come in and set your own up’, I don’t think really that establishes for me an idea of sovereignty of the state of Idaho. I think it is a states’ rights issue, that we should be at the table.”
He added, “ I thought that with the wolves or the grizzly bears, I thought that with the caribou, I thought that with the sage hen and almost every other issue that has come up. If we stay at the table, I think we can make a difference. We did make a difference in most of those negotiations.”
Gov. Butch Otter praised state legislative leaders for setting up extensive ethics training for lawmakers next week. “I think sometimes we cross an ethical barrier because we simply don’t know the rules,” he said, “so I see great advantage for leadership to step up.”
Gov. Butch Otter told reporters this morning that education reform must be arrived at collaboratively and with consensus, saying the process that led to the voter-rejected “Students Come First” laws, which he championed, was badly flawed. “It’s pretty hard to establish consensus if you’re only talking to yourself on a matter of public policy,” Otter said.
Gov. Butch Otter is here at the Statehouse to speak to the press this morning at the annual AP legislative preview – though it’s First Lady Lori Otter’s birthday. There’s an overflow crowd.
“I will tell you that the state of the state is in pretty good shape,” Otter said, particularly compared to other states. “I hear horror stories about them not being able to meet the mandates of a balanced budget, their unemployment rates,” Otter said.
He said he’ll propose a balanced budget on Monday that will be structurally sound, a goal he’s long had – to bring Idaho’s state budget into structural balance by 2014. He also said he’ll have a lot to say in his State of the State message about repeal of the personal property tax. “I will tell you that I think there is a growing consensus amongst folks that the personal property tax is one of the drags on our economy and that we need to do something about it, and the question is what and how fast,” Otter said. He said another part of the question is “how do we do what we would like to do … without doing … harm to the local units of government. So those will all be debated and re-debated.”
This morning’s AP legislative preview will be streamed live online by Idaho Public Television; you can watch live here. It starts with Gov. Butch Otter at 9 a.m., legislative leaders from both parties speaking at 10, and a panel discussion at 11 on the possible repeal of the personal property tax.