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Opinion: To stand up for the little guy, we must expose tiny problems

Opinion: To stand up for the little guy, we must expose tiny problems

Dustin Hurst
February 6, 2015

A few weeks ago, I took some lighthearted ribbing from a relative because I wrote about a change in Idaho tax policy that allowed the state to collect taxes on Netflix.

You’re wasting your time, this relative said, noting the tax hike amounted to about 48 cents a month, not even enough to buy two tasty tacos at Del Taco.

Big deal, the relative continued, telling me I’m wasting my time.

I disagree wholeheartedly for more than a few reasons.

First, little taxes add up. Sure, $6 a year isn’t much, but combine that with property, income and gas tax hikes, and it’s real money -- saying nothing of other fee increases. Every government -- the state, cities, counties and your local fire district -- wants to squeeze taxpayers for every cent, and they’ll do it pennies at a time.

Next, the procedure matters. This specific tax wasn’t technically approved by any elected officials. Instead, the tax commission, trying to close a loophole in a law passed last year, decided the tax hike was the right call.

In short, unelected bureaucrats just raised your taxes $1.2 million. Sure, the commission held public hearings, but who pays attention to rulemaking outside of the legislative session? I sure don’t and I’m paid to do this.

Finally, the little stuff matters, too. This week, IdahoReporter.com intern Harvery Breaux listened in as a House committee approved a rule change to mandate how many hours car dealerships must be open each week. That might be no problem for the big dealers of the world, but the Legislature just killed the hopes and dreams of a car salesman trying to open his own lot when he’s not at his first job.

Because of how Idaho handles this stuff, the public may have never known about this, save for dumb luck. On the daily agenda, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee listed the Netflix issue simply as an administrative change to the sales and use tax -- not the $1.2 million tax increase it is.

I wouldn’t have given it a second thought without seeing a tweet from Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, about the issue.

Harvey, too, enjoyed a stroke of luck; he just happened to be sitting in the right committee at the right time. Admittedly, I directed him there to take notes on an entirely separate issue. Again, the House Transportation and Defense Committee listed the time regulations as “Rules Governing Vehicle Dealer's Principal Place of Business,” not an overreaching intrusion into businesses.

This all begs an important question: what else have we missed simply because we don’t have the resources to overturn every legislative rock in search of a hidden tax hike, fee increase or stifling regulation?

It’s a sobering thought. The average Idahoan can’t hire a high-priced lobbying firm to track and kill bad policy ideas, yet Gem State families must live every day with the judgement rendered in the Capitol committee rooms. They pay the tax, they carry the burden and they face the heavy oppression of government overreach.

That’s why the little things matter.


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