Three long, loud legislative cheers.
1. The distinguished members of the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee have done their job.
Now it’s our most enthusiastic hope that their colleagues will agree.
We’re referring to JFAC’s powerful pro-education statement last week. The panel with its fingers on the state’s pursestrings agreed to a $100 million increase in public education spending, setting the stage for the entire Legislature to vote on a $1.67 billion public education package for the coming fiscal year. That’s by far the biggest general fund expenditure in the budget, and for good reason.
For years this newspaper has criticized the state for its failure to recognize and fully support education. As the world has gotten flatter and more sophisticated, as competition has increased in that global marketplace, as good jobs have increasingly required more education and training, Idaho has lagged behind states that have been better preparing their young people for the new realities of the workaday world.
We still lament the burden that’s been placed on taxpayers’ shoulders through the need for levies and bond issues, which happen to be going before Kootenai County voters in just over one week. We urge local voters to approve the funding requests in front of them. But we also see tremendous progress being made in the Legislature. Here’s hoping the elected body as a whole agrees.
2. If there were a way to permanently remove an issue from legislative machinations, Indian gaming would get our vote. Thankfully, a majority of the House State Affairs Committee agrees.
Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, has been waging a personal war against all forms of gambling for the entire three decades he’s been in the House. Never mind that gaming has lifted many American tribes from abject poverty, providing jobs and revenue that were unavailable by any other means; Loertscher’s mission has been to cast the wagering demons out. So of course, he recently tried again — and failed to get his measure to the House floor by the narrowest of committee margins, 8-7.
Those eight understand and accept the facts. In 1992, a state compact allowed the gaming that we now have on Idaho tribal lands. A ballot initiative to permit tribal gaming went before Idaho citizens in 2002 and enjoyed strong support, 58 percent for and 42 percent against. But that didn’t mean the argument or the challenges were over.
In 2006, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the initiative. In 2010, the Idaho Supreme Court did, too.
We applaud the eight committee members who put a quick end to the latest attempted sabotage of legal gambling. And to the seven who came up short, including North Idaho reps Vito Barbieri and Heather Scott: Visit the Coeur d’Alene or Kootenai tribal gaming operations, talk to employees and see for yourself. This highly regulated business leads to self-sufficiency, which once upon a time was an ideal we all could agree upon.
3. On Wednesday, the Senate halted a step toward “improving” the U.S. Constitution via convention. Somewhere, John Adams and his pals are smiling.