Let's just say that I'm really worried about filing my state tax return this year. Last year, I was pretty confident that my wife and I would come close to breaking even since we had the state take out more in taxes over the previous 12 months.
The several hundred dollars we ended up owing the state was a huge shock and caused us to cut back on eating out, going on road trips or splurging on those little things that make our lives better. After that little fiasco, we told the state to take out even more each month from our paychecks, but I'm still feeling apprehensive on if we'll do better this year.
At this point, I'd be willing to settle for breaking even on what I have to pay in state taxes.
What really has me furious over the whole tax situation is how our state lawmakers take the money we are required to give them and seem to waste it on frivolous and senseless endeavors. The latest antics happening right now in the state capitol are constant reminders that our legislators seem more determined to pursue their own agenda than making life better for the men and women who voted them into office -- again.
Instead of talking about fixing the state's weak economy, repairing our crumbling public roads and infrastructure or supporting public education, they spend an awful lot of time on other stuff instead. Let me illustrate exactly what our state lawmakers felt was "more important" during this current session.
They want to make it a law in this state to require abortion providers to give women information on accessing free ultrasound services. This is directly tied into an anti-abortion stance held by a number of legislators and based strictly on religious ideology.
And speaking of religion, these same lawmakers want to make it a law to prohibit Islamic Shariah law from influencing Idaho courts, although the fate of that the bill remains uncertain. As I mentioned in a previous column, this bill represents a solution in search of a problem.
It's all because that, once again, our lawmakers want to make it illegal for anyone to impose Islamic law in Idaho. However, they seem to have absolutely no problem making it mandatory for everyone in Idaho, regardless of a person's own religious views, to obey a specific version of Christianity.
If I didn't know any better, it sure looks like many of our lawmakers want to impose a Christian-based version of Shariah law.
And this type of wasteful diatribe has extended into other issues as well. For example, our lawmakers apparently decided it was high time to say that cities and counties cannot enforce bans on using plastic bag in supermarkets and stores in Idaho.
I'm really getting tired of our lawmakers putting political ideology ahead of actually accomplishing something important, but I'm not optimistic this will change anytime soon. After all, just last week, the Democrats in the Idaho House of Representatives tried to block a major Medicaid funding bill to (once again) express their discontent over being constantly brushed aside by Republicans, who control both sides of the legislature.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to figure out how long it took for the Republicans to run over that speed bump.
However, there was one thing that's happened so far that had Republicans jumping for joy in the aisles of the state capitol. After investing what I can only imagine was a huge amount of time and energy, they approved a bill that would allow state residents 21 years old and older to carry concealed guns within city limits -- without any requirement for them to have permit or even formal training on how to use these weapons.
Excuse me? Our lawmakers think it's a "good idea" to give someone who "might" have an idea of how to property handle a firearm the opportunity to carry a loaded firearm?
That makes about as much sense as giving a teenager the keys to a brand new car and letting them drive down the interstate without making them complete driver's education. Sure, there are always responsible individuals out there that know how to handle a firearm, but I know of many people out there that I wouldn't trust with a pea shooter.
From my perspective, this latest gun legislation was yet another solution in search of a problem. After all, this isn't the Wild West, and we have police officers, sheriff's deputies and state troopers sworn to protect each and every one of us.
Putting guns into the hands of untrained and undisciplined individuals sounds like a really bad idea. However, our state representatives don't seem to care because I'm betting good money they'll claim it was "absolutely critical" to pass that law.
It seems like the only thing they really want to accomplish is doing anything they can to thumb their noses at the president and members of Congress. If they could, I'm sure they'd thumb those same noses while holding up a copy of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, more important issues affecting this state are once again sitting on the back burner.
About the only thing our state lawmakers accomplished that has any real impact on any of us was a bill that would require Idaho to comply with federal standards on driver's licenses and state-issued ID cards. Had this waited any longer, anyone carrying these forms of identification would've been denied access to federal installations like Mountain Home Air Force Base, nor would they be allowed to board an aircraft at any airport.
But what's frustrating is they've sat on this bill for six... count them... six years before doing anything meaningful. Did any of these legislators actually think that an airport worker or security guard would look at these ID cards and simply give people a free pass?
I would give good money to watch the look on the faces of our state representatives or senators the first time they were denied access to a commercial airline flight or ended up missing an important meeting at Gowen Field because their driver's license wasn't valid. Gee, I wonder who'd they blame.
But maybe that's what it will take to get anything accomplished in the state capitol. Once our lawmakers end up dealing firsthand with the mess they created, they might actually try to do something important for a change.
Then again, I'm not holding my breath anytime soon.
-- Brian S. Orban