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Eye On Boise

Proposed ballot initiative would raise Idaho cigarette tax, lower college tuition

A group launched by former college friends is pitching a 2016 ballot initiative to raise Idaho’s cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack, and use the money to lower tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities.

Bill Moran, a political consultant and 2014 Georgetown University law school graduate who recently moved to Idaho from Arizona, said, “We just started talking about this three to four weeks ago, and we already have about 114 people who have signed up to volunteer to be petition gatherers. That’s before we even did much of a blitz on the campuses.”

It’s a tall order to qualify an initiative for the ballot in Idaho – it requires more than 47,000 signatures, including at least 6 percent of voters in each of 18 legislative districts. The 18-districts requirement passed in 2013; no initiatives have qualified for the ballot since.

But Moran says, “What’s unique about this is the college campuses are strategically located, in a sense, so that you could take up those 18 out of 35 districts.” He said his group, called, is seeing “tons of interest.”

Gary Moncrief, emeritus professor of political science at Boise State University and an expert on initiatives, said, “My position on initiatives is it’s an exercise in grass-roots democracy and more power to ‘em if they can do it. But it’s never easy in Idaho.” State lawmakers added the 13 legislative districts requirement in 2013; no initiatives have qualified for the ballot since. You can read my full story here at

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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