Sound and Fury 

Lawmakers set to make it quick in the Statehouse

If you're a weekend reader of the Boise Weekly, you may be reading this after 105 Idaho lawmakers came to town, sputtered, voted and went home. The fur is flying over property taxes, and although Democrats have an alternative idea, they lack the majority or the mojo to get it past what seems to be an ironclad bloc of votes lined up by Gov. Jim Risch.

So by the time the dust settles, you might reasonably expect to find a break in your property taxes and a hike on your sales tax. According to most economic analyses of the plan, most taxpayers will see a net increase.

Risch has bulldogged his way through Democratic opposition, unfriendly editorials in newspapers, skeptical economic analyses by university professors and even some cautious pondering by his own party members.

Asked recently if the pushback bothered him, Risch said simply, "It doesn't."

"What they're saying are arguments we've already considered," he added.

Still, that doesn't mean he hasn't worked the angles carefully. As he travels about the state, he is checking up on his Senate and House colleagues, to make sure he still has the votes he needs to make his plan work. His spokesman Brad Hoaglun said Risch makes that a part of every trip he takes.

"When you're there, you just run the trap lines, seeing if everyone's there," Hoaglun said.

Greg Smith, a Republican pollster who has watched Risch operate for years, said this is classic form.

"With Risch, you gotta understand, he's a calculator, and he's very intelligent," Smith said. "In terms of having all his ducks in a row, there's nobody that can touch him. He's got the votes to get it all done in a couple of hours."

And although Risch's Democratic opponent in the race for lieutenant governor, Larry LaRocco, has hammered Risch for what he calls a "special interest session," Smith expects little political fallout for Risch.

"This is a winning issue," Smith said. Indeed, a July poll by Smith showed Risch leading over LaRocco.

Democrats in the Legislature have at least snared a highly visible platform; as the session neared, they scheduled several news conferences, to the tune of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business." The allusion is to the fact that Risch's proposal holds significant tax benefits for business interests.

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