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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Idaho presidential ballot to offer eight choices

Idaho’s presidential ballot for November has ballooned to eight candidates, as three independents turned in enough signatures just in time to qualify for the ballot.

The three who qualified late last week were Jill Stein, who’s the Green Party nominee; Darrell Castle, who’s the national Constitution Party nominee; and David Evan McMullin, a Republican and former House GOP aide who launched a last-minute campaign to oppose Donald Trump.

Another independent, Rocky De La Fuente, already had qualified. So that brings the number of candidates who will appear on Idaho’s presidential ballot in November to eight, the highest number in decades. The candidates on Idaho’s ballot:

Trump, Republican; Hillary Clinton, Democrat; Gary Johnson, Libertarian; Scott Copeland, Idaho Constitution Party; and the four independents – Stein, Castle, De La Fuente and McMullin.

Here are the tallies of valid Idaho voter signatures the independents turned in to qualify for the ballot, according to the Idaho secretary of state’s office; each needed 1,000: McMullin, 1,168; Stein, 1,292; De La Fuente, 1,034; and Castle, 1,152.

Polar opposites?

Idaho and Washington may share a border, but according to the latest presidential election forecast on the FiveThirtyEight blog, they’re polar opposites: In Washington, the blog gives Clinton a 96 percent chance of winning the state; in Idaho, it’s Trump by that same 96 percent.

2018 contest already brewing

Former state Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, has announced that he’s running for governor in 2018, going up against Lt. Gov. Brad Little in the GOP primary in a bid to succeed Gov. Butch Otter. Fulcher unsuccessfully challenged Otter in the GOP primary in 2014, and took 43.6 percent of the vote to Otter’s 51.4 percent.

A tea party favorite, Fulcher ran against Otter from the right; he was endorsed by current 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador, who campaigned with him. Fulcher is in the commercial real estate business and is a former Micron executive. A Meridian native, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from Boise State University.

Little announced in late June that he’s in for the 2018 contest.

Consumer complaints draw restitution

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden reports that his Consumer Protection Division recovered more than $2.96 million in restitution for Idaho consumers in fiscal year 2016, nearly four times the division’s budget. The division received 791 complaints, mediated 603, recorded 12,861 consumer-related contacts and completed 22 enforcement actions. Wasden said this is the 24th consecutive year that the division has recovered more for Idahoans than the Legislature appropriated to run the division.

“Idaho’s consumer laws protect consumers, businesses and the marketplace from unfair or deceptive acts and practices, as well as unreasonable restraints of trade,” Wasden said in a letter to Idahoans that opens the annual Consumer Protection Division report. “My office seeks to fulfill this charge efficiently and economically through consumer education, mediation of consumer complaints, and where appropriate, enforcement actions.”

Complaints about motor vehicles were the most common topic in the 791 consumer complaints the division received over the course of the year. Also ranking high were complaints about health care, landlord-tenant issues, loans and mortgage lenders, and construction contractors. The number of complaints was down from 829 the previous year.

Shift led to tax increase

A new analysis by Idaho Education News shows the 2006 tax shift engineered in a one-day special session by then-Gov. Jim Risch – cutting property taxes that previously funded schools, while raising the sales tax from 5 to 6 percent – has actually resulted in a tax increase 10 years later. Idahoans paid out $324.8 million in voter-approved supplemental property tax levies and increased sales taxes in 2015-16, while reaping property tax relief worth $303.1 million. The net effect: A tax increase of $21.7 million.

The EdNews analysis also found that as a whole, Idaho schools are collecting more tax dollars than they would have received under the pre-2006 tax structure, but there are winners and losers. The losers: 18 of Idaho’s 115 school districts are collecting fewer state and local dollars than they did a decade ago, when the Risch tax shift became law. The winners: 26 school districts are actually collecting more local property taxes now than a decade ago, thanks to voter-approved levies.

More cabin sites auctioned

Idaho’s state Department of Lands has auctioned off 30 state-owned cabin sites at Payette Lake for a total of $12.6 million, bringing the total auctioned so far to 258 cabin sites, 141 of those at Priest Lake and 117 at Payette Lake. Twenty-five of the sites in the latest Payette Lake auction already were leased to people who owned cabins on them; all but two of those sold for the appraised value to the current lessee. The other two saw competitive bidding, and one went for $27,500 above its $74,000 appraised value; the other went for $14,000 above its $77,000 appraised value, and both went to competitors who were bidding against the current lessees. The successful bidders will have to pay the cabin owners appraised value for their improvements.

Five of the sites auctioned Aug. 19 weren’t leased to anyone; three of those saw competitive bidding.

The auction was part of the state’s ongoing effort to phase itself out of the business of renting state-owned cabin sites on which private owners build and own cabins; that’s led to numerous lawsuits and fights over the years about what constitutes fair rent for the underlying ground.

Reporter Betsy Z. Russell writes the Eye on Boise column for the Sunday edition of The Spokesman-Review. She also reports Idaho news updates on the Eye on Boise blog at www.spokesman. com/boise. Russell can be reached at or (208) 336-2854.

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