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Should Idaho legalize pot? Some citizens think so (Part 2 or 2)

Should Idaho legalize pot? Some citizens think so (Part 2 or 2)

Dustin Hurst
January 25, 2010
Dustin Hurst
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January 25, 2010

(Note: This is the second of a two-part series examining ideas submitted by citizens to a state government efficiency website.  Part 1 looked at the most common ideas submitted including school consolidation, prisoner incarceration options, and public employee pay reductions. Part 2 focuses on some of the more unique submissions.)

Though Idaho is, in many ideological aspects, as far from California as one state could be, some of the citizens of Idaho want the Legislature to consider a very California-esque proposition: legalize the sale of marijuana.  The two states are facing huge revenue shortfalls, though California’s is in the billions and Idaho is in the millions, and some citizens believe one way to make up the shortfall is to regulate the sale of pot.

“If possession of less than one ounce of marijuana was penalized with a ticket…the state would go from spending to making money instantly,” wrote Coral Spitler of Boise, who argued instead for the punishment for marijuana possession to be lessened.

Advocates of the pot taxation idea believe California could generate as much as $990 million and the measure to make legal the practice of smoking cannabis for pleasure is under consideration by the state’s legislature.  It is unknown how much Idaho would make if the state made the change.

Citizens also took the time to suggest changes for the operation of the Legislature.  Several suggestions involved how to effectively reduce the cost of the having a legislative session.  Many recommended Idaho join Nevada, Montana, Oregon, North Dakota, and Texas in having one legislative session every two years.  A few respondents advocated that Idaho join Nebraska and condense the legislature down to a unicameral (single legislative body combining House and Senate) body.  Other citizens believed the Legislature should put a time limit on itself of either 30 or 45 business days, which is the standard in Utah.

“Nothing in this state should take one-fourth of each year for a legislative session,” wrote W. Loshbaugh of Meridian. Brad Moulton, also of Meridian, called on lawmakers to meet only by teleconference which, he argued, would save the state money and make legislators more accessible to the general public.

According to some estimates, the Idaho Legislature costs taxpayers $30,000 each business day, though some believe it could be as much as $35,000 per day.

No discussion about government would be complete without some form of tax talk.  This list is no exception, though many citizens called for taxes to be raised, not lowered.  Suggestions for tax increases varied from increasing the income tax by 1 percent to increasing the sales tax from 6 percent to 8-9 percent.   Many people submitted suggestions to increase taxes on “sin” items—beer, wine, cigarettes, and liquor – to gain additional revenue.  Ken Jackson, of Sandpoint, even suggested raising the gas tax by 25 cents, which he believes would force people to drive less and allow Idaho to enter the “transportation 21st century.”

One of the primary causes of last year’s elongated legislative session was Gov. Butch Otter’s desire to see a 3-cent increase in the state’s gas taxes.  The Senate approved the hike, but the House refused to approve even a 2-cent hike.

Among the other suggestions were:

  • Consolidating all state university systems into a single unit.
  • Combining all state university athletic programs (no more Vandals vs. Broncos).
  • Raising tax on chocolate and bottle water.
  • Giving the state checkbook to a woman who has lived through hard times.
  • Cutting “unconstitutional” athletic and music programs in schools.
  • Cutting the pay of Boise State football coach Chris Peterson.

And this from Suzanne Coffey in Nampa:

  • “I propose families who have more than 2-3 children…start paying some type of an amount back to the state to educate each child.”  Coffey argues that children from large families usually have large families of their own and that, in turn, leads to school districts needing more buses, teachers, and support staff.

To review the list for yourself or to make suggestions, please visit the governor’s website.

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