This could be the year Idaho legislators really redefine state government in fantastic, positive ways that lead to more freedom for residents. Here’s a wish list of 10 ideas for the 2011 legislative session that starts this week:
1. Don’t raise taxes. And yes, raising so-called “sin taxes” counts as a tax increase. Don’t do it. It’s not right.
2. Get the federal government out of the business of regulating wolves in Idaho. Empower county sheriffs to protect lives, livestock and private property. Form interstate agreements for the management of wolves.
3. Prevent the operability of Obamacare in Idaho. State lawmakers made a good start in 2010 with the Idaho Health Freedom Act, which keeps Idahoans from being compelled to buy health insurance. Now it’s time to tell the federal government that its unconstitutional and overreaching law is not recognized by the state; we won’t implement it and we’ll block its enforcement.
4. Cut entitlement programs, including Medicaid. Cut agencies that defy the proper role of government. Eliminate Idaho Public Television, the Arts Commission, the Hispanic Commission and others. Government is supposed to be the provider of last resort, not a substitute for charities and families.
5. Stop urban renewal districts from cheating taxpayers out of their hard-earned money. Restrict creation of renewal districts, keep projects limited to public infrastructure, not government buildings and private development. Insist on a public vote before urban renewal districts can come into being.
6. Get state and local government out of competing against the private sector. The state owns and runs, for example, a storage unit business in Boise and is looking to open more businesses that compete against Idaho business owners.
7. Fix the state’s retirement system. The state pension system is too expensive and will only get costlier. The fix does not mean forcibly removing pensions from state retirees who have paid for and earned their benefits. Legislators should follow Utah and create options and incentives for new employees and willing current employees to enroll in less-expensive 401(k) plans. Additionally, the judges’ retirement system is running out of money. It’s time to begin moving away from pensions and toward a defined contribution system.
8. It’s wrong that employees of the private state teachers’ union, the Idaho Education Association, get to be on the state employee retirement system. Pull the plug on this cozy relationship. State taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for the retirement benefits of the employees of any private organization.
9. Let’s have a wholesale reform of the public education system in Idaho. Let parents and students choose the education venue that’s right for them. Lift the cap on the number of charter schools. Support digital learning. Institute systems that track outcomes and reward results. Pay the best teachers more. Make it easier to replace underperforming teachers. Focus funding on students and educational achievement, not the continuation of bloated school bureaucracies.
10. Limit teachers’ union contracts in time and content. The agreements should address wages and benefits only, not general school district operations, as is too often the case now. Labor agreements should be negotiated in public view, not in secret, as is the case today.
It’s time to get to work. Let’s hope 2011 is the year a freedom-based agenda prevails at the Idaho Legislature.