Friday, November 27, 2020
Sally Toone Sees Teaching, Farming Experience as Assets in Legislature
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Sally Toone shares a moment with Gerry Morrison at the 2019 Clint Stennett Social.
   
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

If you want to talk with Sally Toone these days you’re likely to catch her in the middle of herding cows.

Toone has been sharing cattle driving and cattle sorting duties as the family cows make their way from Willow Creek area near Fairfield to wintering grounds.

It’s a far cry from the Idaho Statehouse where she represents District 26 in the House. But it serves her well, she notes, along with her background as a teacher since agriculture and education are two of the biggest areas of concern for Idaho legislators.

Toone is a Gooding resident of 48 years and a math teacher for 37 years, with a State of Idaho Mentor/Teacher of the Year under her belt. And, for University of Idaho fans, she is a Vandal alum, too.

A Democrat, she’s seeking a third term in the house. But this is unlike previous elections, she says.

“It’s nationally driven with a lot of national rhetoric. I haven’t seen my opponent talk a lot on local issues. He always brings up the Second Amendment and wanting Idaho not to become Portland.  That’s something I don’t think we have to worry about in Idaho,” she said.

Despite the seemingly widening political divide in the United States, Toone says 85 percent of what the Idaho legislature does is truly bipartisan.

“We take 600-some votes per session—300 in the House and another 300 in the Senate. And another 300 to 400 don’t get out of committee. I’d say the best solution is when we can have a conversation that looks at both sides of the issue,” she said. “We should not talk just Republican or just Democrat. Everyone’s voice needs to be represented.”

That’s particularly true in District 26 where, she says, she represents a widely diverse district that includes a lot of conservative farmers in the south and more Democrats in the Wood River Valley.

Toone says she makes every effort she can to support “our lifestyle,” and that includes preserving public access for fishing, hunting and other recreation.

She says she’s working to get broadband for rural communities, money for crumbling roads and other infrastructure, technical apprenticeship programs or career technology programs for high school graduates and more money for teachers.

“The agricultural economy has come through the pandemic fairly well. We’re not making money but we’re holding our own. We even just got a new food processing plant,” she said. “Some major issues need to be addressed in the dairy industry, such as the waste with so many cows and how to make sure our water supply is safe. But we’re making progress. A year ago, we put in regulations and we have to keep moving forward. We also have to make sure bees are part of the conversation.”

Toone said the legislature needs to follow through with its career ladder promise for teachers. Legislators promised to fund three levels with yearly increases in salary. They funded the first two levels, then cut $99 million this year when the COVID pandemic hit.

The federal government has given Idaho $91 million in CARES money but it has all kinds of restrictions and can’t be used for the career ladder. But, Toone said, the state has money in “very, very strong” revenues it could use.

“I’m not proposing to drain it, but let’s use it,” she said.

Toone said she’d also like to see Idaho’s $100 million surplus spent on local infrastructure.

Toone says tax relief is also sorely needed.

“Last year we looked at 23 property tax relief bills and the legislature couldn’t agree on a single one. We have to look at several proposals, including circuit breakers for seniors and a homeowner’s exemption. We had that in place but the legislature let it expire. We need to bring it back.”

“We also need to look at the sales tax distribution,” she added. “We have the internet sales tax not being distributed. It’s sat there for five years. Blaine County would get 11 percent of that.”

Toone ‘s list of accomplishments include passing legislation upholding the Good Samaritan Law and crafting an ambulance access bill. She also created an organization to have a conversation about agriculture and timber with a Republican representative from North Idaho.

“It was about working together for our state. It was about people, not party politics,” she said. “It’s not about Democrat and Republican. It’s about leadership and conversation. It’s about making sure everyone’s voice is heard.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Meet Sally Toone’s challenger, William K. Thorpe, of Bliss, in Wednesday’s Eye on Sun Valley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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