My buddy Marty Trillhaase actually got one thing - and only one thing - right: The Idaho Freedom Foundation is, as Trillhaase said cheekily, "a champion for the beleaguered taxpayer and a defender of the Idaho Constitution."
We're proud of the fact we're defending taxpayers from Big Government, even when editorial writers, reporters and politicians champion the same tired and failed programs, taxes and spending.
While Trillhaase writes about the crux of the lawsuit by the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Mountain States Legal Foundation against the Boise School District, he refuses to say we're right in our complaint that teachers shouldn't be paid by taxpayers to conduct union business. Instead, Trillhaase embarks on a specious journey in which he conflates the state constitution's provisions on taxation with provisions dealing with education.
He's quite wrong, but in being wrong, Trillhaase politely allows us to make several important points and educate the public on the topics.
First, Trillhaase references the state constitution's requirement that taxes be "uniform" upon all classes of property. He then inartfully tries to shoehorn this provision of the constitution into another argument that property taxes borne by property owners to pay for schools in Nampa should be the same as the taxes borne by property owners in Moscow.
But actually, the taxation provision of the constitution is intended to keep some property taxpayers from being treated differently under the law from people with the same kind of property. For example, Clearwater Paper recently won permission from county commissioners to exempt most of its property from taxation, even though the same kind of property owned by other property owners is still taxed.
Trillhaase is not complaining about that, but local property taxpayers should; it requires other property taxpayers to pay higher taxes to make up for the taxes Clearwater Paper isn't paying. It's also a clear violation of the tax uniformity provision that Trillhaase references.
Trillhaase correctly notes in his commentary that "you cannot charge someone in Coeur d'Alene a 25-cent-per-gallon fuel tax to support a statewide highway system - while imposing a 50-cent tax to a motorist in Orofino." Yet he's unwilling to point out the obvious unconstitutional tax favoritism, corporate welfare and cronyism going on in his own backyard.
Second, Trillhaase's commentary conveniently sidesteps the important fact that the Boise School District hires a teacher, pays that teacher and then excuses the teacher from teaching activity in order to conduct union business. Taxpayers are paying for a union organizer when they think they're getting an extra person in the classroom.
Schoolchildren are gypped out of a teacher. Class sizes are increased. Additionally, other teachers are granted leave time - not just in Boise but in other districts throughout Idaho - in order to attend to union business.
Your child may have a substitute because her regular teacher is attending an Idaho Education Association event.
Why can't Trillhaase simply say what the editorialists at the Idaho Press-Tribune were willing to say: "The money that you pay in your taxes for education should only be covering what happens in the classroom. It shouldn't pay for teachers to engage in outside political activity?"
I'm gonna challenge Trillhaase to do the right thing: As the Lewiston Tribune recently reported, firefighters and the city council have signed a contract that excuses firefighters from, you know, putting out fires and saving lives, in order to conduct union business.
Councilor Clinton Daniel, according to the newspaper, said, "On city time, they should be conducting city business, not union business."
Unfortunately, opponents of the contract lost. The taxpayers lost. Taxpayer-funded unionizing won.
So how about it, Marty? You don't even have to mention the Idaho Freedom Foundation, the Mountain States Legal Foundation or our lawsuit or the Boise School District in your commentary. Just acknowledge that it's wrong for taxpayers to pay for union activities, wherever they may be occurring.
Note: This piece was first published in the Lewiston Tribune.