Now is a good time to pay attention to state legislators

Oh, hey. Welcome to a new year.

And, of course, a new legislative session, starting on Monday.

This is a good time for us, as citizens, to pay attention to what’s going on with our state legislators — and make sure we’re holding them accountable.

There will be some big issues this legislative session, many of which are likely to focus more on how our so-called leaders can hang onto power, rather than actually look for ways to improve the lives of ordinary Idahoans.

The unfortunate reality with many of our legislators is that we have to keep fighting the same battles with them over and over again. Last session, they floated the idea of changing the independent, bi-partisan nature of our redistricting commission. There was a general outcry against it, and they backed off. But in recent “town halls,” certain Idaho House leaders expressed an interest in trying again.

Last session, we the people beat back an ill-conceived effort to further restrict ballot initiatives. However, these so-called leaders are once again talking about bringing it up in the coming session. After fighting our “representatives” in an attempt to keep them from making Medicaid expansion more expensive and more burdensome (something our so-called fiscally conservative legislators did anyway), I wouldn’t be surprised to see them at their same old tricks again.

Rather than looking to invest in our communities, by taking steps like allowing for local-option sales taxes, broadening tax brackets in a way that would help more middle-income Idahoans and reviewing the sales tax exemptions that amount to billions of dollars a year, we’re likely to have another fight on our hands.

Our “leaders” keep trying to push through measures that help no one but themselves and their donors, while patronizing the rest of us and ignoring sensible solutions. They’ll insist on more tax cuts that disproportionately benefit top earners while ignoring the needs of the vast majority of Idahoans.

In most polling, tax cuts don’t make the top of Idahoans’ concerns. We’re worried about education, infrastructure, affordable healthcare and continued access to our public lands. These are all things our legislators claim to care about, but their policies tell a different story. They’ll gladly pass legislation that reduces revenues, increases costs or doesn’t do much beyond help them hold onto power. Then, they’ll claim that they don’t have the money for the things that actually impact Idahoans in their everyday lives.

They did it with Medicaid expansion. After passing tax cuts that people spoke against at a town hall in Rexburg, our “representatives” added requirements that increased the cost of Medicaid expansion. Then they proceeded with a tour of the state that included gaslighting constituents and insisting that Medicaid expansion was too expensive and that they’d cut other spending to make up for it.

This is their modus operandi. And they will likely engage in this type of disingenuousness in the coming legislative session. We shouldn’t have to be on our toes, watching for these types of shenanigans, but if we aren’t keeping an eye on them, our “representatives” will see what they can get away with.