Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Bedke: Legislature as ‘arena of ideas’

House Speaker Scott Bedke addresses a crowd of more than 100 on Tuesday at the Andrus Center for Public Policy (Betsy Russell)
House Speaker Scott Bedke addresses a crowd of more than 100 on Tuesday at the Andrus Center for Public Policy (Betsy Russell)

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, shared some of his thought process and how he approaches the Legislature when he spoke at the Andrus Center today. “One thing that was drummed into us at my father’s table was that 99 percent of people - I can hear him say this - 99 percent of the people … will go to a meeting and not have anything other than criticism. He said you go with any type of an idea, then that will be the canvas that everybody else will start painting on, and then you can engage the group on solving the problems, as long as you have the start of an idea. I think that that philosophy has served me well.”

Said Bedke, “I view the Legislature as an arena of ideas, so if you bring an idea, then with very few exceptions … those ideas need to be heard, and then vote up or down on ‘em. And then if you lose, then bring a better idea next time. It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got to start this public dialogue on some of these issues.” He added, “I think it’s incumbent on the policy makers at this point to take the blinders off, raise our eyes to the horizon a little bit.”

Bedke shared an idea he’s been mulling: What if Idaho imposed a means-test on the $133.5 million that’s set to go out in grocery tax credits, giving it only to the poor? The resulting $70 million or $80 million in savings could be redirected to lowering Idaho’s top income tax and corporate income tax rates, on which, Bedke said, “We’re out of step with our neighboring states.” That might help attract new businesses to the state, he said. He asked the group of more than 100 what they thought of the idea; they were decidedly mixed.

Bedke also responded to questions on several issues:

  • On raises for state workers, he said, “I don’t know exactly what we’ll end up doing, but we will do something.”
  • On the alternative state budget unveiled yesterday by former longtime state chief economist Mike Ferguson and two former state schools chiefs, which would put less money into tax cuts and reserve funds and more into education: “I appreciate what Mike is trying to accomplish there, in being a catalyst for change. … I’m not ready to endorse it yet. I’ll take a look at it. I look at a lot of proposals.”
  • On collecting Idaho’s 6 percent sales tax on online purchases: “I’m seeing some softening on that. There’s a basic issue of fairness there.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

Follow Betsy online: