Gov. Phil Batt on Wednesday reiterated his pledge to restore the $13.3 million in state aid withheld from public schools this year if sluggish tax receipts pick up, but he refused to commit to tapping the $35 million budget reserve account to make up the shortage if revenues lag.
The governor also declined to say whether he would support formally reducing the state aid package by the $13.3 million to $650.7 million - a move that would avert an automatic property tax increase but would need the votes of lawmakers facing re-election on a school aid package many believed was inadequate before 2 percent was held back.
“That’s all part of the general discussion we’ll have to have, and I’m not ready to comment on it,” the governor said following his address to the annual conference of the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho.
Unless the holdback is restored or the aid package officially cut, school districts can recover the lost state aid through emergency property tax hikes.
The governor, however, did acknowledge that “I don’t think the general public’s in the mood for any increased taxes.”
Complicating the prospects for restoring the school aid money, the governor admitted, was the fact that it appears his administration may have underestimated the cost of his attack on juvenile violence through the new Department of Juvenile Corrections. That could mean a multimillion-dollar emergency appropriation this winter, he said.