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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Online tax revenue key for schools, Luna says

BOISE – Idaho Schools Superintendent Tom Luna is calling for collecting Idaho’s state sales tax on online sales as the best way to ensure the state can afford to improve its school system.

“Any tax code that does not take into account consideration of online sales tax and the migration of commerce toward online sales is shortsighted,” Luna told lawmakers. “I believe the answer is simple: We need to collect every penny of sales tax that is due.”

Luna said that would ensure the state can fund the 20 recommendations of Gov. Butch Otter’s education task force to improve Idaho schools, from restoring budget cuts to setting up a new, more generous teacher-pay system.

“We are not going to be able to address the fiscal note (cost) of these task force recommendations with the current tax structure we have in place,” Luna said. “This is the 21st century. We want a 21st-century education – then we must have a 21st-century tax code.”

Idaho already requires taxes to be paid on online purchases, but there’s little enforcement. Idahoans are supposed to keep track of their online purchases, report them and pay a 6 percent “use tax” when they file their state income tax returns, but few do.

Different reception

The Senate Resources Committee, which last year refused to confirm Fish and Game Commissioner Joan Hurlock, gave a much different reception to this year’s two new commissioners, Brad Corkill of the Panhandle and Mark Doerr of the Magic Valley.

After Corkill, responding to senators’ questions, said he’d be glad to see all wolves disappear from the state and called for a “very aggressive program” to reduce wolf numbers, committee Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, told him, “You answered the question right. … I thank you for your public service. We appreciate you volunteering.”

After questioning Doerr, Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, told him, “It’s been some time since you’ve been out goose hunting, so that invitation is standing. Come out anytime.”

Jack Oyler of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, who strenuously opposed Hurlock’s confirmation last year, told the committee, “I want to speak in favor of both of these men on the commission.”

Hurlock, the second woman ever to serve on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, was ousted when both the committee and the full Senate refused to confirm her, something that hadn’t happened since 1974. The Senate voted 19-16 against her confirmation. Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, said at the time, “This lady is not qualified” and she lacked the necessary “passion” for hunting and fishing to represent the interests of Idaho sportsmen.

Pearce said the committee will vote on the confirmations of Corkill and Doerr on Monday.

New ‘Obamacare’ billboards up

The Idaho Freedom Foundation now has six billboards around the state attacking legislative incumbents who voted in favor of setting up a state-based health insurance exchange rather than allowing the federal government to operate an exchange for Idaho. The group has also updated the look of the first ones it posted, opting for a bright-red color scheme and photos of the legislators it’s excoriating.

“We’ve improved the look, while putting them up in more places,” the foundation reported on its website.

Foundation head Wayne Hoffman said there are now two signs in Idaho Falls, and one each in Rexburg, Burley, Mountain Home and Coeur d’Alene.

“They didn’t need to implement OBAMACARE,” the billboards say above the lawmakers’ names and photos, along with a statement by their photos that each one of them “voted FOR IT.” Across the bottom, the billboards say, “Repeal the State Insurance Exchange in 2014!” One of the billboards targets Otter.

Four Kootenai County lawmakers are pictured on the billboard near Coeur d’Alene, all Republicans: Reps. Luke Malek, Frank Henderson, Ed Morse and John Goedde. They don’t seem too upset at having their photos on a billboard in their home turf, along I-90 at Pleasant View in Post Falls.

“I think the people in my district understand the issue,” Malek said.

Morse said, “I represent the interests of the citizens in my district, not Wayne Hoffman.”

Beck passed over

Otter has named Patrick McDonald as the new state representative for District 15, replacing Rep. Mark Patterson, R-Boise, who resigned. The other two nominees for the seat were GOP activist and former Sen. Rod Beck – who was listed as the district GOP committee’s first choice – and Sam Hoagland. Beck has clashed with Otter on everything from Beck’s push for a closed GOP primary to his move to oust Kirk Sullivan, Otter’s choice to head the state party.

Staff writer Betsy Z. Russell can be reached at or (208) 336-2854.

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