Limited government, fiscal responsibility and low taxes.
Some people haven’t gotten the message. From Day 1 of this legislative session, I have been flooded by emails howling about cuts in education, health and welfare, parks, public television and other programs in state government. Of course, I am always happy to read correspondence from Idahoans. But there doesn’t seem to be a great realization that our economy is in the tank, unemployment is at high levels, foreclosures are at record levels and businesses are shutting down.
Terms like “limited government,” “fiscal responsibility,” and “low taxes,” have to do more than reflect political ideology during election campaigns. They have to be part of every decision that is made on government spending. If we don’t live by these common-sense philosophies – I mean truly live by them – then Idaho will find itself on the same path as California, Oregon, Arizona and other states that are on the verge of bankruptcy.
We must ask ourselves the tough questions and have the guts to make the tough decisions. For example, is state-funded Public TV a necessary part of government? Or is it a “nice” service? I agree that Public TV provides entertainment, information and education to a lot of Idahoans – especially in the rural areas, which don’t have access to cable television. But is it crucial for the health and safety of Idahoans? I say that it is not.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating the demise of Public TV. I’m all for private contributions to keep Public TV going in Idaho. But in my mind, this is one area of the state budget that should be eliminated. Granted, the appropriation for Pubic TV -- $387,000 -- is not much in relationship to the entire state budget. But I believe there is that much, or more, that can be saved in other areas of state government.
The economic recession is the main reason why we need to make difficult decisions in spending. However, the big-spending practices – when times were good – is what got us into this mess. From 1990 to 2010, Idaho’s population grew by more than a half a million people, or about 50 percent. Yet government spending during that time grew from $1 billion to more than $3 billion, an increase of 200 percent.
Now we are paying the price for those decisions. It’s time for those of us in the Legislature to get back to the basics.
Rep. Paul Shepherd represents District 8 in the Idaho House of Representatives.