Where did all the money go?

Legislative Update

by State Rep. Randy Armstrong

I ask my wife that question at the end of almost every month. Now that we are near the end of the legislative session I ask the same question–of the Governor, of the Legislature, of someone… of anyone.

“Where did all the money go?”

Over two billion dollars was spent on education alone (no wonder our children are so smart). No matter how much you have starting out, you never end up with very much in the end. It’s like your garden; those five rows of beans look like a lot, but by the time it comes to actually making soup, there is not much left after dinner. With every warm-hearted pet project, the funds just leak slowly away.

Sometimes it is simply difficult to keep track of money.

Stay with me here. Let me know where you think the money went.

Three men rented one shabby motel room. They paid $10 each; for a total of $30. Later that night the manager told the clerk that he had charged too much. “We never rent that room for over $25. We need to give them some money back.” So the clerk reaches into the till and grabs five one dollar bills. As he is walking up the stairs he thinks, “Those three guys can’t divide $5 evenly, so I’ll just keep two of the dollars and give each man a dollar rebate.” So he knocks on the door and hands each man a one dollar bill.

Now the tricky part: $10 – $1 = $9. Each man has paid $9. Right? 3 X 9 = 27. The clerk kept $2. 27 + 2 = 29. What happened to the other dollar?

That is how government financing works. Sometimes it’s very difficult to follow the money.

One week before the end of the session, after all of the money had already been spent, the leadership of Idaho incredulously announced that the State has a transportation crisis and Idaho desperately needs money to solve it. $300 million to be exact. And they want to borrow the money–adding $300,000,000 to Idaho’s already existing debt. I recognize the urgent need for transportation. (I also recognize the need for a facelift every time I shave, but I only have so much money) I realize also that to keep our economy growing we must have a robust transportation infrastructure. (But why wasn’t this concern mentioned at the beginning of the session when we were flush with cash?)

Then in the same breath they introduced the desire for tax breaks. Now I am the first person in the State to want tax breaks, but saying “$300 million more debt AND a tax break,” in the very same breath, isn’t financially or fiscally reasonable. It defies logic. It breaks every law of common sense.

It’s like the young wife who says, “I’m pregnant, we need to get out of this apartment and buy a really large home.” And then in the same moment, in a fit of compassion, says that she also wants to start donating $1,000 a month to her favorite charity. Gasping, the husband says, “You are a wonderful and charming wife, I love you like crazy, but you’ve got to choose one or the other.”

We need roads. We need a tax break. “You’ve got to choose one or the other.” So if you see me voting against a tax break; know that it goes against everything I believe, everything I desire, and is as uncomfortable as having a root canal and a colonoscopy on the same afternoon, but for sustained prosperity, we need roads. And I’m going to have a very unpleasant afternoon.

Finally, if you can find that lone lost dollar, please call Boise, they can certainly use your expertise.

Thanks for reading!

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