Among those with predictably differing views on the special session of the Legislature on Friday are Gov. Jim Risch, who called the session and pronounced it a success, and former Congressman Larry LaRocco, Risch’s election opponent in November’s contest for lieutenant governor.
“Yesterday’s session was a body blow to democracy and it was a frontal assault on education,” LaRocco said on Saturday. “Our families are deeply concerned about the priorities endorsed in yesterday’s legislative action. … The education of our children was put on the back burner.” LaRocco added, “Today marks the official start of the race for Idaho’s Lieutenant Governor. I will be the champion for Idaho’s children. Jim Risch has pushed these young Idahoans to the back of the line. … He placed in front of our children out-of-state residents, property owners who have NOT been hammered by higher valuations, and high income folks who are not dramatically affected by higher sales taxes.”
Risch, in a press conference late Friday night with legislators, said, “I am overwhelmed by the two-thirds vote by both the House and the Senate for property tax relief. Difficult issues usually result in a close vote, but Idahoans saw that this plan provides immediate and permanent property tax relief while substantially helping education.”
Risch added, “In November, voters have the opportunity to cast their ballot in an advisory vote. I invite all Idahoans to join together and support property tax relief while protecting education. Idaho is a great state, and this legislation makes it even greater.”
The new law raises the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent on Oct. 1, while eliminating the $260 million property tax levy that now funds basic school operations in Idaho. The state would make up the lost education funding through a combination of the sales tax money and $50 million from this year’s state budget surplus. It also sets up a $100 million rainy-day fund for schools to hedge against future state revenue shortfalls. It does not increase education funding, seeking instead to maintain it at its current level.