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Anti-Initiative Forces Regroup Coalition Still Says No To One Percent Solution To Property Tax Increases

The battle against a statewide property tax-limiting initiative began Tuesday with the formation of a group comprised of business, labor and government interests.

Opposition from that same group helped hand the One Percent Initiative an overwhelming defeat at the polls in 1992.

Nearly 50 organizations or businesses that want to defeat the ballot measure attended the coalition’s Tuesday meeting.

“The coalition is alive and well,” said Dan Chadwick, executive director of the Association of Idaho Counties.

The group, Idahoans Against the One Percent, successfully defeated the last version of the initiative, spending more than $330,000. By contrast, initiative supporters spent about $33,000.

Ron Rankin, initiative author, said he’ll do better this time. His organization had raised and spent about $48,000 as of its last campaign finance report, and he expects to raise and spend at least another $50,000 by the election.

“Those who invested in getting it on the ballot will be just as willing to invest in getting it passed,” Rankin said.

The initiative would limit property taxes to 1 percent of assessed value after exemptions. It also would shift public school funding from local property taxes to the state general fund, requiring cuts in other state programs or increases in other taxes.

Steve Ahrens, of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, was a key figure in the coalition’s last campaign. He said he can’t be officially involved until the IACI board votes this weekend on its position on the initiative.

While the ‘92 campaign stretched on for 18 months, the opposition group has only four months until the election, he said. “So there won’t be the necessity for the amount of money.”

Among the organizations represented Tuesday were the Idaho State AFL-CIO; the Association of Idaho Cities; most of Idaho’s colleges and universities; the Idaho Education Association; some individual businesses; and firefighters’ unions.

Last time, the IEA was the major donor to the anti-initiative campaign, followed by business interests.

Chadwick, of the counties association, said his group can’t give big bucks to the campaign, but he plans to hit up his members. “That’s what I intend on doing, going to the individual elected officials and have them personally donate to the effort, just like they did in 1992.”

Rankin said he’s anticipating that the opponents will have to balance their spending on the anti-initiative campaign with legislative and congressional races. “They’re not bursting at the seams with capital to do this with.”

He said his campaign in favor of the initiative will include tabloid inserts in newspapers throughout the state in the fall, plus additional efforts in the state’s most-populated counties: Ada, Canyon, Kootenai and Bonneville.

Said Rankin, “I don’t take losing lightly, especially if there’s another round.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Crushing defeat