Opinion: Invest in the people of Idaho

Nine hundred million dollars.

That’s the budget surplus our so-called leaders are crowing about right now.

Our schools and infrastructure fall into disrepair, and our overburdened teachers try to pick up the pieces of the last year. Housing is increasingly unaffordable.

The Legislature passed — and the governor signed — a bill that hamstrings our cities in the face of unprecedented growth, limiting our ability to provide needed services to our people.

How does hoarding money or redistributing it to the wealthiest among us in the form of yet another tax break prepare us for the future?

There’s good financial stewardship and then there’s whatever it is our so-called leaders are doing. One of the things I’ve learned as a business owner is that when you see a nice jump in revenue, you invest a chunk of it back into the business. Idaho has a nice bump here. It’s time to invest it in our most valuable resource — people.

Our so-called leaders set up a false sense of scarcity and pretend like they can’t address the priorities of Idahoans. Education and health care rank among the top five concerns of Idahoans year after year. Currently, affordable housing is one of the top issues cited by Idahoans in the most recent public policy survey from Boise State University.

Guess what doesn’t make the top five? Tax cuts.

I’m not very confident that our so-called leaders will take our surplus and invest it where it belongs — in the people of Idaho.

Decades of research indicate that tax cuts for the wealthy don’t offer any real economic benefit, and they certainly don’t pay for themselves. However, investments in infrastructure and education, as well as in communities, do pay long-term dividends. We see it in better health outcomes, safer communities and better-paying jobs.

Certain members of our Legislature, doing the bidding of extremist special interest groups like the Idaho Freedom Foundation, passed legislation in the past year that undermines our education system, harms homeowners and limits our local leaders’ ability to address issues. Unfortunately, none of the nonsense passed in our last session provides any meaningful boost to our economy or the working people who support it.

Instead, you’ll start to feel the impacts in your pocketbook as affordable housing is harder to find and property taxes continue to hit the budgets of those on fixed incomes. They’ll try to divert your attention with made-up crises in a made-up culture war, all the while picking your pocket to line those of their cronies and maintain their own power.

Here’s the thing. We have the money to pay our teachers a competitive wage. We have the money to upgrade our crumbling infrastructure. It’s there. We can invest it in our people, or we can continue to let it further enrich the already wealthy.

Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized financial expert, author and speaker. She is the state committeewoman for the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.