Ed funding choice: Rice or Reclaim

It’s great that Caldwell Sen. Jim Rice recognizes there is a need to lower property taxes. 

Didn’t Sen, Jim Risch address the same concern while governor?

And both Republicans came up with the same solution–raise the sales tax. 

The plans aren’t identical.  Risch’s action took away $260 million in school funding and replaced it with $210 million in sales tax without guaranteeing the sales tax money would go to schools.  

Rice’s plan would replace $214 million in supplemental property tax levies with an estimated $250 million in sales tax dedicated to education. (Extra funds could increase current school funding, go to a “rainy day” account for schools, or replace general funds now going to schools.)

But school districts would lose the power to request supplemental levies. 

Those who remember the recession of 2007 understand why that’s a concern.

Thirty-three states raised taxes during the 2007 recession. Idaho legislators saw this as a chance to lure businesses from other states, so they lowered taxes instead.  

Revenue fell 11% and legislators cut state funding for education by 20–at least that’s what they claimed in campaign literature.   

Idaho voters responded by approving supplemental levies in record amounts; they understood that kids’ development can’t wait until it’s affordable. 

Can voters today trust future legislatures to do better by our children?  

Sen. Rice has suggested that we ask them. The legislature could present his plan as a referendum for Idaho voters to pass or reject–like the Luna Laws. 

So voters may be voting this November on two different plans for funding education,  Rice’s proposal, as submitted by the legislature, and the Invest in Idaho initiative for which Reclaim Idaho volunteers are gathering signatures around the state. 

Invest in Idaho cites a decrease in supplemental levies as one benefit, but the emphasis is on increasing funding for schools.  .  

“We’ve all seen the costs of Idaho’s failure to invest in education: outdated and torn-up textbooks; overcrowded classrooms; underfunded special education; unfunded kindergarten; cuts to career-technical training; poverty wages for support staff; qualified teachers leaving the state in droves because Idaho will not pay competitive salaries” (https://www.reclaimidaho.org/our-campaign).

And the plans for funding are entirely different.

Rice’s plan would raise Idaho’s sales tax rate to 7%. That would place it in a four-way tie for second highest in the nation. 

Merchants along the borders with sales-tax-free Oregon and Montana will be at an even greater disadvantage.

 And people in the middle and low income brackets would pay a higher rate than the wealthy–that’s a must for any tax proposed by a Republican. A person who spends most of their income buying necessities pays on more of their income than those who spend only half–and Idaho is notorious for waiving sales taxes on airplanes and such for its wealthiest citizens.  

 Reclaim Idaho’s plan would not increase taxes for those with middle and low incomes.  

The total raise would be less–about $170 million–and would fall on only a few. 

The tax on corporate taxable income would be restored to its previous level of 7%–a cost of about $4 per $1000 in profit. 

Currently individuals in Idaho pay nearly 7% on all income over $11,554. Invest in Idaho would add another tax bracket; earnings over $250,000 would be taxed at nearly 10%–an additional $30 per $1000 earned.  

It’d be great if legislators simply enacted Invest in Idaho. It’d save a lot of time and shoe leather for volunteers. 

And there’s always the chance that voters could pass both plans next November. 

Wouldn’t that make for some battles during the legislature’s 2021 session?  

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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