With annual pay and benefits averaging $135,382 for Boise firefighters and $102,003 for Boise police, it’s time for a reassessment of spending priorities not only in Boise, but in the state as well. . . . [P]ublic order and safety spending in Idaho is expected to skyrocket 343 percent in the next five years from $70 million to $240 million!
Can Idaho, which ranks second (and that’s not good) in the number of people making at or below minimum wage, afford to spend almost a quarter of a billion dollars for police, fire and prisons? Even worse, Idaho’s real median household income is collapsing. It’s at levels last seen 20 years ago, and average weekly earnings have flatlined from mid-2010 to mid-2014.
How much lower does real household income have to fall before the politicians “get it?” Wake up, Republicans! Stop spending beyond our means.
As it stands now, state spending is growing twice as fast as Idaho’s real economy. The Republican-controlled Legislature is basing its budgets on an “endless” 6.76 percent nominal growth, whereas, according to the St. Louis Fed, Idaho’s real gross state product growth has averaged 2.92 percent over the past 17 years.
This is a far cry from “limited” government. And estimating there will not be a downturn in the economy in the next five years is not good fiscal management.
Consider this. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28 of Idaho’s 44 counties are estimated to have lost population, with Elmore topping the list at nearly 900 fewer people. Idaho’s Western way of rural life is dying, and Idahoans’ economic confidence in April this year was fifth from the bottom, with Arkansas. Dead last was West Virginia because of Obama’s war on coal.
Why is public order and safety spending expected to more than triple? Do our politicians see unrest in our interior rural counties? Are they preparing for an economic collapse as increasing numbers of financial advisers are predicting? Are they powerless to curb personnel costs? In any case, Idaho is not experiencing a crime wave that might justify massive spending increases.
Keep in mind that sweetheart labor contracts with overly generous pension benefits for police and firefighters were major factors in pushing a number of California cities into bankruptcy: Stockton, San Bernardino and Vallejo among them. And voters in San Diego and San Jose, California’s second- and third-largest cities, have voted overwhelmingly for sweeping pension reforms. Cities across the country are having similar problems.