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School funding shift fails on 7-12 vote

After long and heartfelt debate – including many compliments for Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, for his creativity in fashioning HB 505 to replace all property tax funds for school operations with a 1 cent sales tax increase – the bill went down on a 7-12 vote in the House Rev & Tax committee.

In the end, the bill drew opposition both from those who worried that it’d leave schools short on funding, and those who thought it raised too much in additional taxes. “Where are we going to come up with the money – I’m so tired of hearing that when we have a $200 million surplus,” said Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star. “I don’t want to raise sales tax.”

Roberts acknowledged that the sales tax increase would raise only $210 million and school funds that would need replacing next year – even if costs grew only 3 percent from this year – would total $244 million, which leaves a $34 million gap. But he and backers of the bill said lawmakers would come through for schools, and appropriate the needed funds. “The $34 million is an issue that we have to deal with, but we have under current tax policy a surplus that’s being generated right now,” Roberts told the committee.

Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, who supported HB 505, said, “Schools have always been, always will be funded.”

The two North Idaho members of the committee, Reps. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, and George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, both voted against the bill. Clark said he had several problems with the bill, including possible loss of local control and the idea of raising the sales tax. Sayler noted competition for state appropriations with growing Medicaid and corrections budgets, and said schools could be left short.

When HB 505 was killed, the committee had at that point killed all the bills before it to look at shifting school operations funding from local property taxes to another source, including a proposal from a legislative interim committee. Committee Chair Dolores Crow, R-Nampa, said, “At this point I would suggest that all of those that have bills in the M & O arena get together and come up with something that is more palatable.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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