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Report: Idaho economic performance falls on heels of cuts to schools, taxes

Idaho’s economic performance is declining on the heels of a “dramatic erosion in resources” due to tax policy changes and falling investments in K-12 and higher education, according to a new report from the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy. The report notes that Idaho’s per-capita income is lower than all but one state, Mississippi; its low- and moderate-income residents pay a larger share of their incomes in taxes than do higher earners; per-student school funding is down 16 percent since 2008 in inflation-adjusted figures, while higher-ed funding per student is down 37 percent; and Idaho ranks 31 percent below the national average for tax collections and 41st in the nation for tax collections relative to income levels.

“While Idaho has never been a high-income state, our sharp downward trend in economic performance is alarming,” said Lauren Necochea, director of the center.

Jasper LiCalzi, chairman of the Department of Political Economy at the College of Idaho, said, “Reduced funding for education, both primary and secondary, depresses per capita income, which, along with a regressive system of taxation, reduces tax receipts for the state. These problems cannot be resolved in isolation but only together.” You can read the full report here.

The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy is funded by the Northwest Area Foundation and was opened by former longtime state chief economist Mike Ferguson in 2011; Ferguson retired from the center June 30, and Necochea, who also heads Idaho KIDSCOUNT, took over. Necochea said the latest report, headed, “Six Key Facts About Idaho’s Revenue Shortage and Our Declining Economic Performance,” was designed to sum up information examined in larger reports by the center “in a way that was concise and easy to digest.”

Both the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy and Idaho KIDSCOUNT are programs housed at Mountain States Group Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit. Necochea is a native Idahoan who studied economics at Pomona College and earned her master’s degree in public affairs at Princeton. Ferguson called her “ideally suited” to taking over the center. Though Ferguson no longer has an official role with the center, Necochea said, “Mike is a dear friend and we’re still talking to him frequently.”


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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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