Opinion

Sound off: State Representatives Bailey, Smith short on ‘solutions’

I always find it fascinating to compare Representative Barbara Bailey’s rhetoric (Sound Off, March 13) with voting records and other sources, so I was delighted that she cited a Republican Web site that offered details, “not meant to be partisan, but rather to offer contrast,” on “our solutions.”

The first topic listed there is education. “Redefining education” was the solution proposed in HB 2261, which the Legislature actually passed with a majority of both parties. Representative Norma Smith was a co-sponsor. Senator Haugen voted aye. Bailey voted nay.

The second topic is fiscal responsibility. One has to believe that Republicans are genuinely interested in this, but they rarely suggest anything except “no new taxes, don’t raise taxes, and cut taxes.” No Republican bills were introduced under this topic.

Third is health care reform. Republicans introduced a slew of bills. The House passed only one, but it stalled in the Senate (even though Democrats favored it) because of unacceptable cost to enrollees in health savings accounts. Bailey co-sponsored most of them. Smith co-sponsored none. To Smith, health care, reformed or otherwise, does not seem to be a major concern.

Fourth is jobs and economy. Again, the Republican position is, “Pass a balanced budget without raising taxes.” Of three bills listed, Bailey and Smith each co-sponsored two, but none got past first reading in committee. The summary for this section says, “It’s true that Washington receives glowing reports from outside observers (of state economic management), but a closer look at the facts reveals a different picture.” That is, “Unbiased opinions don’t count. Trust us.”

Norma Smith’s March 12 e-mail update to her constituents is similarly short on detail, but she seems to think Idaho’s Governor Otter has a solution. He said, “We now are reaching out to Oregon businesses and will do the same with those in Washington if the Legislature there follows Oregon’s lead.” Okay, what “tax relief” would we find on the Idaho Tax Commission Web page?

Income tax: “Idaho residents are taxed on all income, including income from outside the state (1.6 to 7.8 percent, depending on income). Nonresidents of Idaho are taxed only on income from Idaho sources. Idaho part-year residents are taxed on all income received while living in Idaho plus any income received from Idaho sources when not living in Idaho.”

Sales tax: “Sales tax (6 percent) applies to the sale, rental, or lease of tangible personal property and some services. Food is taxed in Idaho, but prescription drugs are not. There is an additional tax for hotel, motel and campground accommodations. Some counties and resort cities collect a local sales tax.” Anyone who does not pay sales tax on goods purchased may owe a use tax. Businesses pay taxes on property, payroll and sales.

Would Bailey and Smith prefer Idaho’s basket of taxes, which includes a state sales tax only half a percent less than the one we have been living with for years, plus similar local taxes and a progressive individual income tax? A state personal income tax would take a lot of pressure off small businesses and perhaps would obviate the need for a state estate tax, but their campaign donors and fellow travelers don’t want that either.

Such a dilemma! It’s so much easier to just blame the Democrats.

Jim Bruner lives in Oak Harbor.

Community Events, April 2014

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