So both sides make good points.
But neither is always sincere.
A decent argument can be made that voter initiatives are a bad way to make law. But one thing is certain, the latest efforts for another voter initiative exposes the hypocrisy that permeates state politics.
Two years ago a small group of Idaho residents under the name of “Reclaim Idaho” launched the effort to give free health care to more people. Despite long odds, this group was successful in its effort to expand Medicaid.
Voters overwhelmingly approved of making Idaho’s largest welfare program bigger.
Since votes were counted after the November, 2018 election, progress to implement Medicaid expansion has been slow – but it will happen.
One of the big disagreements between critics and supporters of more Medicaid is tied to work requirements for people who receive the free benefit.
The sales pitch by supporters of expanding Medicaid was that it would help working Idahoans. As the story went, proponents said many Idahoans were stuck in low-paying jobs, without medical benefits, and were unable to afford health insurance.
Expanding Medicaid, they said, would provide healthcare to these working Idahoans.
Voters agreed and the measure passed easily.
But when Republican legislators attempted to tie work requirements to the free health care, the same people who championed expanded Medicaid for “working Idahoans” – balked.
Which seemed odd given all the advertising and promotion of the plan as a way to help, well – working Idahoans.
Sure, Reclaim Idaho has plenty of arguments why work requirements are a bad idea. But the irony between what they said, and what they really meant, can’t be ignored.
Reclaim Idaho, however, doesn’t have the patent on hypocrisy.
Those same Republican leaders clamoring for the work requirements are skilled practitioners as well.
The major argument critics of Medicaid expansion made is the cost. They charge that while voters approved more welfare, they did not provide money to pay the cost.
This argument is especially delicious coming from the very same bunch that has jacked-up property taxes all over the state – without ever voting to do so.
Every year these very same legislators force school patrons to raise property taxes because they don’t provide enough money to fund local schools. Those tax hikes come in the form of supplemental levies; levies the vast majority of Idaho schools require to operate.
Yet when it comes to Medicaid expansion they yelp because there is no funding.
And they do this with a straight face.
Last week Reclaim Idaho announced it plans to fix school funding – with another voter initiative. They want voters to raise taxes on corporations and high-income taxpayers. Their sales pitch is the added taxes would help eliminate supplemental levies.
At first glance, this makes some sense.
That is, the state Constitution stipulates that the state pay for schools. Today that ain’t happening. The politicians running the state won’t because it would require them to raise taxes – instead they just foist that dirty work off on local school patrons.
But there’s plenty not to like about Reclaim Idaho’s latest initiative.
Maybe this time the Reclaim Idaho people really do mean what they say. Maybe.
But instead of relying on trust, we would like to see it written into the initiative that money would be used, and only used, to eliminate supplemental levies.
Otherwise, if it passed, what we know for certain is school spending will soar – with no reason to believe results in the classroom would improve.
But this is all timely.
Most legislators agree voter initiatives are an awful way to make law. That’s why they’ve been working hard to make it harder to get initiatives on the ballot in Idaho.
Of course, there is an easy way to stop this one.
The legislature could do it job – and fix school funding.
DAN HAMMES is publisher of the Gazette Record.