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Eye On Boise

Dems challenge school budget in House

Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, contends that the public school budget now moving through the Legislature - and likely to come up for debate in the full House today - violates legislative rules because its fiscal note doesn't reflect the impact on local school districts that may seek property tax overrides to make up for the bill's cuts, so he made a motion in the House to amend it. Durst told the House the bill "will raise property tax at the local level ... as a result, the fiscal note is incorrect." Rep. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, backed Durst's motion, saying, "Our local school districts are still going to have to find a way to function. The fiscal note does not show what the impact will be for local property taxpayers, so it should be amended."

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, said he reads the rule differently, and said the fiscal note should be amended when the bill is in committee - not in the full House. He called Durst's motion "a waste of time." House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, disagreed, and noted that the fiscal note on a budget bill isn't even written until after the committee has acted. JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said, "This budget's totally about choices, and that's why the flexibility was given to the local boards. They will have to make choices with less funding. It does not say they have to go to the voters for additional money. ... Stick with the committee, give your support and your trust and your faith in those local school boards to do the best they can in this situation." Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, told the House, "We can't second-guess what the patrons will do from district to district."

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said, "Sure it's a local decision." But, she said, "We don't want to put them in a position of choosing to have a substandard education for their children rather than having to ask their patrons for some kind of extra support." House Education Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, said the Wallace school district passed a supplemental levy last week, because voters there wanted to help out their local schools even despite high unemployment and difficult economic times. "In light of the budget crisis we have down here, I think the fiscal note is fine," Nonini said. The motion failed on a 17-52 vote, largely, though not entirely, along party lines.




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Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.