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Legislature uses fees to help finance a variety of programs, services

Legislature uses fees to help finance a variety of programs, services

Mitch Coffman
April 19, 2012
April 19, 2012

“A million here, a million there, sooner or later it adds up to real money.” The late Republican senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen, uttered those famous words so long ago that “billions” was not even part of the spending equation. But, as times would have it, the quote has been altered over the years using the word billion to more accurately reflect the spending world in Washington, D.C.

But Dirksen had another gem as well. He said when government talks about millions and millions of dollars and leaves out lesser amounts of spending—thousands, hundreds, tens of dollars—it is almost as if the smaller amounts don’t matter.

The Idaho Legislature left Boise March 29 with a number of members proud to say they did not raise taxes. The budget was balanced without dipping any deeper into the pockets of taxpayers.


Well, it depends on your definition of dipping into the pockets. What the Legislature did in some instances, when it found it necessary to provide funding for something specific, was identify it as a fee or a user fee. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a fee is “a fixed charge, a sum paid or charged for a service.” The dictionary says a tax is “a charge of money imposed by authority upon persons or property for public purposes.”

Well, call it what you will—fee or tax or even a banana—but not everyone escaped the wrath of the tax-man, er, fee-man. To wit:

- Think there might oil or gas under your back 40? The fee for well drilling and testing was raised to $2,500, but only temporarily, according to the legislation.

- The Legislature determined that massage therapy is worthy of regulation complete with creating an oversight board. The board can assess therapists up to $200 for a license.

- Interested in becoming a real estate agent? The license fee is now $150.

- The state’s police officer training facility, commonly called POST, is financed in part by offender fees, now costing the guilty party an extra $15.

- The state has a victim notification program, established with the idea that families should know the whereabouts of someone convicted of doing harm to a loved one. The court fee dedicated to that program was increased by $10.

- For years, the state’s judicial retirement fund has been funded at far less than the 100 percent needed to fully fund the program. One measure to bring it into more solid financial footing—court costs went up by $8.

- Idaho outdoors-types can purchase a Sportsman’s Pak that packages a number of permits and fees for hunting and fishing. The Pak license fee was raised by $6.15.

- Not to be left out of the formula, even the state’s grain crop producers were granted a self-imposed fee increase. Sale of a bushel of wheat can be assessed a fee of up to 5 cents per bushel above the current fee, barley sales can be assessed up to 4 cents extra per hundred-weight.

So, count your tax-saving blessings unless you are looking for oil on your own land, someone in the family wishes to become a massage therapist, someone else wishes to obtain a real estate license, another committed a crime against another person, you want to buy a Sportsman’s Pak and you have wheat and barley to harvest on the farm. That will cost you $2,889.15, not counting your wheat and barley assessments.

Note: Erik Makrush, policy analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), contributed to this story. IdahoReporter.com is published by IFF.

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