One of the more watched races in the primary election May 15 is in District 7A where incumbent Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, is being challenged by Rex Rammell, who has never held elective office, but has a level of name recognition.
Rammell, for years a resident of the Teton Valley, relocated to north-central Idaho in 2011. He has run statewide against Jim Risch for the U.S. Senate and against Butch Otter for governor. Versus Otter, he finished second in the Republican primary with more than 26 percent of the vote. The District 7 region was one of his most successful voting areas in his race against Otter and it is where Rammell now resides.
McMillan has been vocal against environmental regulations she feels hurts her home area in the Silver Valley.
Rammell has had a number of battles with law enforcement in Idaho involving fish and game issues, jury tampering and battery.
Both candidates responded to a number of questions sent out by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF)—agreeing on several issues, but with different reasoning. They also found themselves on opposite sides of a few issues.
Both oppose raising the sales tax and, in fact, would like to see it reduced. Rammell, however, did qualify his response by saying, “If Idaho would eliminate personal and corporate income tax, I would support a 2-cent increase in the sales tax as an offset, but I would never vote for a net tax increase.” McMillan said there is no need to raise taxes, that raising the sales tax “hurts the retail businesses especially.”
The two differ on providing tax breaks to certain businesses or industries. McMillan said “it depends on the tax break and the industry.” Rammell is opposed to the tax breaks because such breaks “pick winners and losers” among businesses and competitors and he favors eliminating the corporate income tax.
Both candidates support the idea of a constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds vote of the House and the Senate for tax increases, but they differ on a two-thirds requirement for fee increases. McMillan opposes the idea, Rammell supports it.
McMillan believes “If an organization or entity wants to increase fees on themselves in order to be self-sufficient, they should be able to.” She points to groups such as the wool growers and the branding inspection for the livestock industry, saying, if “the members of the organization agree to it (a fee increase) then they should be allowed to do so. It does not affect the person not involved in the business. The money is not coming out of their pocket, only the people involved.”
As a general policy, Rammell and McMillan oppose eliminating income and/or sales tax exemptions, credits and deductions in order to raise state government revenue or to lower the overall sales and/or income tax rates. Maintain the exemptions, says McMillan, as a way to assure “lower taxes.” Rammell feels “the production exemption is a legitimate exemption. As long as there is a sales tax, it should be retained. The same for income exemptions, if the income tax is retained.”
One topic that drew a lot of attention during the 2011 and 2012 session was urban renewal, including a number of bills to regulate the districts and one to do away with it in the state. McMillan says urban renewal “needs to be reigned in. In some cases it has been very useful and helpful when used properly and ethically. But as the laws stand, there is a lot of potential for abuse.” Rammell supports the notion of doing away with urban renewal, arguing that “eliminating the income tax will provide the stimulus needed for job growth and new businesses. The free market will renew urban areas better than any government program.”
One idea that seemed to have a good deal of momentum for passage near the end of the 2012 session was allowing Idahoans to buy health insurance across state lines. However, it ultimately did not make it out of the Legislature. McMillan feels it is a good idea, Rammell is not so sure, worrying about the role of the federal government in such a plan. “As long as the federal government's role is restricted to making sure the insurance companies fulfill their contracts,” he is OK with the idea.
The two candidates agree that state government spends too much time and effort regulating the lives of its citizens. McMillan cites the texting while driving ban as an example: “We already have a distracted driving law. Why did we need a ban on texting law that will be virtually impossible to enforce and will only make it more dangerous as the kids find more distracted ways to text while driving?” Rammell feels state government “regulates too much, and such regulations should be cut.”
For a complete list of the two candidates’ responses to the IFF survey, click here.
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.