Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Idaho's Republican Governor Bitter Over Having To Withdraw His Unpopular Proposal To Raise Taxes For Car Registration Fees!!!

Idaho’s Republican Governor Butch Otter has removed his proposal for a flat $150 fee to register a car in Idaho. This massive proposed tax increase was meant to pay for roads. It would have also put Idaho in about 8th place in terms of car registration fees among the 50 states. We have high taxes in Idaho, as discussed in one of my posts below.

Anyhoo, Governor Otter was mad about his proposal being met with cold shoulders in the Legislature. In this Idaho Statesman article, his statement was “bitterly worded,” and he accused legislators of “desir[ing] political cover behind which they can continue avoiding a difficult but necessary responsibility of government.”

My, my, my. How pious. Boo hoo! Cry me a river! Butch, the one-time libertarian, is now the Nanny State Governor.

What part of “fiscal responsibility” does he not get? Last year, his first general fund budget was 8.75% bigger than the previous budget, and his proposed budget this year was 10.87% bigger than his first budget. Idaho’s last two Republican Governors and their overwhelmingly Republican Legislatures increased spending to the point where our current budget is 32.58% more than it would have been if it had been increased to account for population growth, income growth, and inflation. When are the Idaho Republicans going to get a clue? This is not all Butch’s fault—he’s part of it, but so is former Governor Dirky Kempthorne and the Republican majority in the Legislature. They are all a bunch of tax and spend monkeys!

There are probably several needs out there. However, before we start spending more tax money, our Republican leaders need to step back and start cutting all the unnecessary government waste. Across-the-board cuts are also in order. The Republicans have been lollygagging along for too many years in Idaho, unaccountable to anyone and unafraid of the ballot box. I’m a fiscal conservative who had voted Republican and worked for the Republican Party and officials, and I am sick and tired of it. No more for me. I’m voting against every one of the S.O.B.’s this year. Every single one of them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Sad Day: William F. Buckley, Jr., Passes Away!

A sad, sad day! William F. Buckley, Jr., was one of my favorite people. He was a fascinating man. I’ve read many of his books, and I never failed to watch him anytime I saw him on a television show. In one of his books, I remember him saying something about true conservatives always asking themselves whether a policy proposal would increase or decrease liberty, and always picking the side that would increase liberty. That was his suggested barometer for making policy. I certainly wish more conservatives in office followed his advice. The modern Republican Party has been hijacked by a bunch of unethical tax-and-spenders. Tonight, I am going to get out one of Mr. Buckley’s books and read it again.

Rest in Peace, William F. Buckley, Jr. God bless.

Read the news at The Corner on National Review Online.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Idaho's Republican Governor About To Propose 100% Tax Increase For Our Car Registrations!!!

OMG! Continuing from several posts below, the Idaho Republican Party, which has been in total control of Idaho since 1995, is once again asking for a HUGE tax increase. This time, they will soon be proposing to increase our car registration fees by 100%!!! This breaking news from the Idaho Statesman reveals that the secretive plans to raise more revenue from Idaho’s taxpayers are just starting to come out in public view. Based on the state tax and fee comparison data I evaluated and discussed in a post below, this kind of increase would move Idaho from having the 24th highest car registration fees, on average, in the nation, to having the 8th highest car registration fees!!! We would go from being slightly below the average fee to being 65.96% above average!!!! Unreal. As detailed below, the Idaho Republican Party has been taxing and spending Idahoans to death for more than a decade now. We cannot continue on this path of fiscal insanity!!!!!
UPDATE: The Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell is reporting in her blog (Eye on Boise, see hyperlink on the right of this page) that the new proposed car registration increase would be a flat fee of $150 per vehicle, regardless of age. This is huge. This is more than 100% for one of my cars. Her data is slightly different than the data I've evaluated--she says we move from being 30th to 17th in the nation with this massive tax increase.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Northern Idaho Toilets: Trip To Loop Creek With Norwegian Relatives

In the summer of 2007, some of my Norwegian relatives came to visit my family in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Among the various and sundry activities, we took them over to the Loop Creek area near Wallace and Avery. My grandfather and his father had several mining claims in that area, including a patented mining claim. At any rate, the picture above shows Olav sitting on a very large, old tree stump that is near an old cabin that still stands just off Loop Creek, near Kelly Creek. The cabin is known as "T-Bone's Cabin," because a guy named "T-Bone" lived in it for many, many years. He had a mine nearby. He was one of my grandpa's friends. T-Bone inherited the cabin from a hooker. Yes, a hooker. That was back in the day when Adair and several other small towns existed along the old Milwaukee line that is now known as the Hiawatha bike trail. With respect to the stump, it was T-Bone's toilet. At one time, he had a shower curtain around it. I am totally serious. We had Olav sit on it to demonstrate the creativity of the northern Idaho toilet.

Friday, February 15, 2008

UPDATE: Forecasting Reapportionment in 2010!!!

Extending from a post below about reapportionment, I used a forecasting software package to forecast county population growth in Idaho out to 2010. The package picked the best forecasting method (double exponential smoothing, single exponential smoothing, double moving average, etc.) for each county and generated county populations for each future year out to 2010. The post below explains what I mean by "northern," "southwestern," and "southeastern" counties.

The end results show the following:

1. Idaho’s total population will be 1,586,730 in 2010. That is 22.07% bigger than in 2000.
2. The average district size in 2010 (35 districts divided into total population) will be 45,335.
3. The southwestern counties will be entitled to 15.58 districts. The two big counties, Ada and Canyon, will have 593,247 people, which will be 37.39% of the entire state’s population. Ada and Canyon County continue to grow faster than the rest of the state. In 2000, 33.56% of the state's population was in these two counties. It is a compact area, too, covering just 1,644.71 square miles. In comparison, the state's other urban area, which includes Kootenai County in northern Idaho and contiguous Spokane County in eastern Washington, covers 3,008.76 square miles. In 2010, Ada and Canyon Counties will be entitled to 13.09 districts, which is a gain of one full district. Currently, one of the Canyon County districts is split into Gem County. Under the 2000 Census, all of the southwestern counties were entitled to 14.53 districts, so they will clearly gain one new district.
4. The southeastern counties will be entitled to 12.14 districts. This is a reduction from the 12.93 districts they were entitled to under the 2000 Census.
5. The northern counties decrease from the 7.53 districts they were entitled to under the 2000 Census to 7.28 in 2010.
Clearly, Ada and Canyon Counties will gain a legislative district. The numbers seem to indicate that however the next reapportionment commission draws the lines, it would need to take slightly more away from southeastern Idaho, because the drop is more than twice as big per district as the north. Idaho grows, and I know Kootenai County has and will continue to grow, but the sheer size and rate at which Ada and Canyon Counties grow really swallow up the growth in the north when it comes to legislative districts. At any rate, my best guess is that we will see a new district close to Boise and, if fairness and legality prevails, there will be 7 districts wholly enclosed in northern Idaho, 12 wholly enclosed in southeastern Idaho, and 15 wholly enclosed in southwestern Idaho (including 13 in Ada and Canyon Counties), and 1 district that could stretch into the north, southeast, and southwest, perhaps centered around Boise, Valley, Idaho, Lemhi, and Custer Counties, which would put the district within 5.58% of the ideal district size. The courts require no more than a 10% deviation from the ideal district size, which is not complicated to understand or implement, but Idaho's history with this requirement has not been good. When it comes to reapportionment, expect partisanship, gamesmanship, blame, and lots of nonsense.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Looking Ahead To Reapportionment in 2010: Trends Favor Democrats & Disfavor Southeastern Idaho

Today, Idaho has 35 legislative districts. Each district contains 1 senator and 2 representatives. With a couple exceptions, legislative districts do not cross county lines, and the law requires the county boundaries be respected to the extent possible when new lines are drawn.

When Idaho’s legislative districts were redrawn following the 2000 Census (lines must be redrawn after a Census is completed), the state’s population was 1,293,593. Thus, if you divide 35 districts into that number, you get 36,970 people living in each district. There is some deviation from that number, but the courts require the each district be very close to the perfect number.

Reapportionment is a nasty, partisan business. In Idaho, a commission appointed by officials from both major parties is assigned the job of drawing new districts. Each political party wants lines drawn to give them the best chance of winning seats. There are also regional biases, with commissioners trying to draw lines that give their area of the state the maximum number of districts possible. Last time, in 2000, the southeastern part of the state lost legislative seats. There were numerous lawsuits and a lot of hurt feelings that arose from that process.

The Census Bureau last provided county population estimates on July 1, 2006. At that time, Idaho’s population was estimated to be 1,466,465, an increase of 13.33%. If you divide 35 legislative districts into the 2006 population estimate for Idaho, you get 41,899 people per district.

I have taken this new theoretical number of people per district, compared it to each of the county population estimates for 2006, and set forth my conclusions below. In discussing areas of the state, I refer to the “north” as being all counties from Idaho County on up, the “southwest as being counties south of Idaho County and west of Lemhi, Custer, Blaine, Camas, Gooding, and Twin Falls Counties, and the “southeast” being all other counties to the east. The counties that have gained the most through 2006 include Canyon, Ada, and Kootenai. The counties that have lost the most through 2006 include Bannock, Elmore, Latah, Nez Perce, and Minidoka. Too see a map of Idaho, its counties, its legislative districts, and a list of legislators, click here.

1. The biggest gainers are Ada and Canyon Counties. Canyon is the biggest gainer, with .58 new districts. Ada County gains .43 new districts. Together, the compact Ada-Canyon area already has enough people to gain a full new legislative district. Thus, it appears that the southwest, especially the Ada-Canyon area, already has one new district (3 more legislators) locked up—in total, the southwest counties would have 16 districts (48 legislators).
2. Kootenai County comes in third, with.20 new legislative districts. Kootenai is the only county in the north that gains. The other northern counties (Boundary, Bonner, Shoshone, Benewah, Latah, Clearwater, Nez Perce, Lewis, and Idaho) actually would lose almost half a district (.41). The north should remain about the same with 8 districts (24 legislators), although they are collectively .21 down.
3. The southeastern part of the state is down the most. Collectively, the southeast counties are down .60, more than half a district. Only four southeastern counties are up: Bonneville is up .03, Jefferson and Teton are up .02, and Power is up .01. The biggest losers in the southeast are Bannock (.17), Minidoka (.09), Bingham (.08), and Cassia (.07). Thus, the southeast is down the most, making it the most likely area of the state to lose a district. If so, it would have 11 districts (33 legislators).

Thus, as it stands, it appears that there will be a new legislative district in the Treasure Valley, a loss of a district somewhere in southeastern Idaho, and a wash in the north. Ada County currently has 8 districts (24 legislators), and half of Ada County’s legislators are Democrats. As the Treasure Valley grows, the trend seems to be in favor of Democrats. The 2010 Census could bode well for the Democrats.

When Will The Idaho Republicans Quit Spending So Much Of Our Money?

The chart above shows what has happened with Idaho's General Fund budget since the Idaho Republican Party took over the Governor's Office in 1994 and solidified its dominance of the Legislature and the entire state budget. It is not pretty--the Idaho Republicans have spent taxpayer dollars at a rate that far outpaces per capita income growth, inflation, and population growth.

The blue line shows the actual general fund budget beginning in fiscal year 1995 and continuing on each year to Governor Otter's proposal for fiscal year 2009. Those numbers come straight from the Idaho Legislature's website.

The red line shows what the general fund would have been if the Republicans had kept pace with per capita income growth, inflation, and population growth. The red line is what I consider to be a "fiscally conservative budget." It does not represent any budget cuts, however; it only represents what would have happened if, beginning in fiscal year 1995, we would have only increased the budget to account for per capita income growth, inflation, and population growth.

To arrive at the numbers on the red line, I used the actual general fund budget for FY 1995 (Cecil Andrus's last budget) as the base year budget. Then, I first increased the actual general fund budget by the annual percentage increase in per capita income, numbers which came straight from the Idaho Department of Labor's website. I had to forecast per capita income numbers for 2007 and 2008 using the past data, because those numbers are not available.

Second, I upwardly adjusted again for Idaho's annual population increase. Those numbers came straight from the United States Census Bureau's website.

Third, I upwardly adjusted one last time for the increase in the consumer price index (CPI), a national figure obtained from the United States Department of Labor's website. The Idaho Department of Commerce's website explains that Idaho uses the national CPI because there is no index for Idaho. I had to forecast the final fully adjusted general fund budget for FY 2009 using past data because economic data for that time period is not yet available.

The chart tells a sad, sad story. Among the many points that can be made from this chart are the following:

1. When Governor Phil Batt ended the Democrats' control of the Governor's Office in Idaho at the end of 1994, the last fiscal year General Fund budget (1995) of former Democrat Governor Cecil Andrus was 1.26 billion dollars. This year, Republican Governor Butch Otter has proposed a fiscal year 2009 general fund budget of 3.13 billion dollars. That is 2.47 times bigger than the budget that the Republican Party inherited from Governor Andrus. If Idaho's all-Republican government had passed the conservative budgets shown on the red line, our fiscal year 2009 budget would be 1.95 billion dollars, or just 1.54 times bigger than Governor Andrus's last budget.

2. The Idaho general fund really started to take off in fiscal year 1999, which was Governor Batt's last budget. Overall, Governor Batt did a good job with the budget, which is a reflection of his honest-to-goodness fiscally conservative nature. Kudos to Governor Batt! Governor Kempthorne, however, really kicked the general fund budget increases into high gear. He and the Republican-dominated Legislature had to back off a bit when the national economy sank into a recession after the Internet bubble burst and the economic consequences of 9-11. Alas, starting again in fiscal year 2005, the Idaho Republicans got back to spending like drunken sailors in a Shanghai saloon. Governor Otter's newest budget proposal (currently being debated in the Idaho Legislature) does nothing the alleviate the huge discrepancy between how much our government spends and how much it should spend if wage growth, inflation, and population growth are considered.

3. If Idaho's general fund budget increased close to increases in per capita income, inflation, and population growth, my forecast would give Idaho a fiscal year 2009 budget of 1.95 billion dollars. I consider this number to represent a truly fiscally conservative budget. Governor Otter proposes 3.13 billion dollars. The grand total difference between all of the actual general fund budgets and truly conservative general fund budgets from fiscal year 1996 to fiscal year 2009 is 5.16 billion dollars.

4. Recent budget increases under Governors Kempthorne, Risch, and Otter are downright scary. Beginning in fiscal year 2007 and continuing through to fiscal year 2009's proposed budget, the increases have been 18.93%, 8.75%, and 10.87%.

Finally, if the Republicans want to argue that their huge budgets are justified by Idaho's growing economy, as represented by Idaho's gross domestic product (GDP), they will lose on that count too. From 1997 to 2006, Idaho's GDP rose by 75.05%, whereas Idaho's general fund budget grew by 121.37%. They can't run; they can't hide. The Idaho Republican Party has spent this tax money with Republican governors, a veto-proof Republican majority in the Legislature, and a Democrat Party that has had no serious power base at all in Idaho for more than a decade.

I am simply stunned and massively disillusioned with how the Idaho Republican Party has grown government and spent our tax money. The Idaho Republican Party is not the party of fiscal conservatism. The stone cold facts reveal the Idaho Republican Party to be the party of taxing and spending.