It’s about time Idaho did something about campaign finance reform, North Idaho lawmakers said Monday after Gov. Phil Batt proposed sweeping reforms.
Freshman Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said she was “appalled by the amount of money she had to spend on her winning campaign - $44,000.”
“That said, I don’t know what the answer is,” Keough said. “But its definitely an item we need to discuss.”
Sen. Gordon Crow, R-Hayden, agreed, calling Batt’s campaign finance proposals the most exciting of the many made in the governor’s State of the State address.
“I’m just as frustrated as every other citizen, coming out of this last campaign,” Crow said.
Batt’s reforms are similar to proposals made in the past by Rep. Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint, which would set limits of $1,000 on contributions to local and legislative candidates and $5,000 for statewide races and initiatives.
“He’s a straight shooter, as straight as they come,” Stoicheff said of the governor. “You can’t disagree with much of what he said.”
Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Coeur d’Alene, had praise for Batt’s proposal to re-examine state employment policies. “It’s a terrible process that we’ve gotten ourselves into,” Alltus said. “You can’t fire the wrong person, because they’ll have you in court in 15 minutes.”
But Alltus, a proponent of eliminating the so-called “marriage penalty” from income tax laws, didn’t like Batt’s version of that change. The governor called for making the change “revenue-neutral.” That means other income taxes would be increased to balance a tax break for married couples.
“I don’t think you need to raise taxes to do that,” Alltus said, although the plan he supports would cost the state $10 million. “I think there are ways to raise money by cutting areas that are grossly inefficient.”
Rep. Wayne Meyer, R-Rathdrum, was pleased with the governor’s proposal to give farmers a six-month grace period on securing workers compensation insurance for their employees. Batt last year pushed through an end to agriculture’s long exemption from workers comp rules; Meyer opposed that change.
Two lawmakers who represent the Silver Valley had strong reactions to Batt’s comments on gambling. While the governor, who says he’s “not fond” of gambling, suggested that Indian reservations shouldn’t have gambling that’s not allowed elsewhere in the state, Reps. Don Pischner, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Larry Watson, D-Wallace, saw it the opposite way.
“I would support gambling in Shoshone County if they want it,” Pischner said. “I would support gambling in probably any other county if they want it on a local-option basis.”
If Idaho tribes can gain economic development through gambling, they should have that opportunity, Watson said. “What else could we do to generate that kind of money?”
But Sen. Jack Riggs, R-Coeur d’Alene, had a different view. Riggs said he served his three years in the Air Force in Las Vegas, and saw widespread gambling close-up.
“I think its a better system to have a place to go if you like that lifestyle,” he said. “I would not pick Idaho….I think Idaho’s got enough other draw that we don’t need gambling.”