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Two-Thirds Rule Called Unfair, Indispensable

It’s not fair, says Linda Holehan, a mother involved in a third campaign to replace her town’s overcrowded high school.

It’s a godsend, counters Dee Lawless, who fears people are being taxed out of their homes.

They’re talking about the Idaho law that requires a two-thirds yes vote to pass a school bond.

Eight states have so-called supermajority rules. Among them is Washington, where 60 percent of the voters must give the nod before property taxes are raised to build or repair schools.

The stakes are high. Nationally, an estimated $112 billion is needed to restore schools to good condition. Idaho’s alone need $850 million.

The Post Falls district will go to voters this fall seeking $15.8 million of that, to make room for the youngsters who are pouring into the community. Holehan worked to pass the same bond last spring and watched with dismay as it got only 62.6 percent of the vote - a landslide in any other election.

“When more than 60 percent said yes and we still didn’t win … to me, is unfair,” she says.

In the last days of the campaign, the Kootenai County Property Taxpayers Association took out newspaper ads urging people to vote no.

Lawless, the group’s vice president, is delighted that each of those votes counted twice as much as the yes votes.

“People are losing their property, having to sell at lower prices to get out because they can’t meet rising taxes,” says the former teacher. “That majority was set by the Constitution to protect property owners from having their pockets raided by people who don’t own property. I’m very, very much opposed to ever changing it.”

School bond elections are among the few times people have a direct say on tax increases, and many of them hate to give it up. Idaho and Washington lawmakers have turned down proposals to put the supermajority rule to a statewide vote.

Californians recently defeated (by a vote of 55 percent) a proposal to eliminate the two-thirds supermajority.

Lawless is hoping for November passage of Idaho’s One Percent Initiative, which would shift the burden of operating schools from local property taxpayers to the state.

Holehan is well aware of the initiative. It will, she notes, take a simple majority to pass.

, DataTimes