Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith

Recently, Pat Tucker, the chairwoman of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee, published an “open letter to Bryan Smith” expressing her contempt about my misplaced priorities for spending Idaho’s $630 million budget surplus. If there ever were an opportunity to contrast the differences between a tax and spend wealth redistribution Democrat like Pat Tucker, who thinks she knows better than you how to spend your money, and someone like me who thinks you know best how to spend your money, her “open letter” provides a great opportunity. So, thank you, Pat.

I had suggested Idaho use the budget surplus to eliminate the grocery sales tax, lower income tax or provide property tax relief. But my suggestions didn’t make Pat happy. A happy Pat wants to spend the money on public education, Medicaid expansion and low-income housing.

Therein lies the stark difference between Pat and me. All my suggestions put money directly in the pockets of Idahoans whom I trust to spend their cash wisely. By contrast, all Pat’s suggestions keep the cash out of their hands because she believes she knows better than they how to spend their money.

To exalt her ideas, Pat resorted to demonizing me as someone who “expressed zero desire to invest in Idaho’s economy or to help those who have lost their jobs.” I disagree that the government’s job is to take people’s money and invest it for them. Pat’s premise is patronizing. But I’m pretty sure people who have lost their jobs would really appreciate an immediate 6% reduction on their grocery bill by eliminating the grocery sales tax. After all, Pat’s the one who said that “lower-income Idahoans are desperate.” Everyone knows the grocery tax is regressive, and its elimination necessarily would help desperate lower-income Idahoans the most.

My suggestion to eliminate the grocery tax disproves Pat’s claim that I want “help” to go only to working people so those who aren’t working won’t get the cash they don’t deserve. Again, elimination of the grocery tax provides immediate tax relief even to those who are unemployed. And my suggestion to eliminate the grocery tax also disproves Pat’s claim that tax cuts really benefit just the wealthy because, the last time I checked, lower-income people buy groceries and eat food too.

Pat argues, “Lower-income people actually spend government support on products that help spur the economy.” So, Pat must agree a 6% reduction in the costs of groceries would help the economy too because people would have more money to buy stuff.

Unlike Pat’s suggestions, all my suggestions help individuals directly. Lower-income people pay higher property taxes through higher rent. The highest Idaho income tax rate is 6.925% and kicks in at $11,760. This means that lower-income Idahoans would also benefit from reducing the highest income tax rate.

Even if Pat can’t bring herself to reduce property or income taxes to help lower-income Idahoans directly, why can’t she and I agree on eliminating a regressive grocery tax that hurts lower-income Idahoans the most? Eliminating the grocery tax is truly something we should be working on together. I suspect it has more to do with her belief in assessing the other guy’s wealth and redistributing it than it does with a good tax policy that truly helps lower-income Idahoans.

Bryan Smith serves as the fourth vice chairman on the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee.