Residents in Post Falls and southwestern Kootenai County can choose between two candidates for a House seat with clear differences on their positions on the pandemic and education funding.
Incumbent Tony Wisniewski’s first term representing District 3 in state House seat B is coming to a close. He believes he’s upheld his conservative values through voting against bills that would raise taxes or increase federal government influence in the state.
His Democratic challenger, Teresa Borrenpohl, believes her public sector background in higher education deems her more qualified for the job.
Both candidates support property tax reform and abolishing the state’s 6% grocery tax, but their opinions on education funding and reform differ.
Borrenpohl is a Post Falls resident and works as an enrollment services professional at North Idaho College. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s degree in public administration from Montana State University and a doctorate in education from Idaho State University. This is her first time running for public office, although she has volunteered on other local Democratic campaigns the past two election cycles.
When asked what she’d do upon election, the candidate said she’d push for education reform – specifically allocating more funds to teacher pay and per-pupil spending in Idaho.
“Teacher pay in the state of Idaho has decreased by 6% over the last 10 years,” she said. “That doesn’t make us competitive in the education market to ensure our students are getting the best possible education from employees who feel happy, fulfilled and aren’t seeking opportunities in other industries where they can be compensated better.”
Idaho ranks last in the nation for its per-pupil education spending, a figure Borrenpohl would like to see substantially increased. She said money could be increased for education by minimizing tax exemptions.
“One example of these savings is in the service industry. In Idaho, we don’t charge taxes in the service industry – and for things like haircuts, that makes a lot of sense, because that impacts our entire population,” she said. “But when we look at the maintenance on a yacht, or the maintenance on a jet, that is not taxed. There are great opportunities for reassessing the exemptions we provide in the state of Idaho.”
Borrenpohl praised Gov. Brad Little’s actions on the pandemic, which she believes helped keep case counts lower than in some other conservative states.
“I think he handled the pandemic pretty well, especially when compared to his Republican counterparts throughout the United States,” she said. “I really appreciated his early intervention.”
Wisniewski, who is wrapping up a two-year term in the House, has been a Post Falls resident for 24 years. He said this residential tenure makes him well-versed to represent District 3.
The retired engineer said he plans to vote for President Donald Trump in November and would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
“Roe v. Wade decision was a vast overreach of the authority that the Supreme Court had – they found a hidden right in the Constitution – the right to privacy of women to kill their unborn babies.”
Borrenpohl declined to say if she supports abortion rights.
When asked what he’d do upon re-election, Wisniewski said he would push for Little to move past Stage 4 of Idaho’s pandemic reopening plan, despite a statewide surge in cases.
“We are no longer in the state of emergency that we might have been back in April and May when the pandemic first hit us,” he said. “The steps the governor took at the beginning of the pandemic were very reasonable – unfortunately, he’s held onto that power for too long.”
Little recently announced Idaho will stay in Stage 4 of the plan – the eighth time since June the state has fallen short of advancing.
Wisniewski said he believes the Legislature should have the ability to call itself into session, a move only the governor has power to do.
To this end, he was one of 15 Republican legislators who convened for an unofficial House gathering at the state’s Capitol in mid-July to denounce the state’s pandemic emergency orders, calling them unconstitutional. Few of the legislators – nor the 200 spectators who sat in the state Capitol gallery – wore masks despite a public health order requiring them in spaces where social distancing cannot be practiced.
Like Borrenpohl, education reform is on Wisniewski’s radar, but he would like to see a portion of the state’s budget be reallocated to subsidize charter and private schools and home-schooling.
“Since my opponent is heavily invested in the education system, she would like to see more funding for education,” he said. “Public schools account for 62.8% of general fund appropriations – that’s a horrendous amount.”
Wisniewski is opposed to raising most taxes under nearly all circumstances. To fund education, he believes the state should tap into the newly created Wayfair tax, which requires online retailers to collect and remit the 6% sales tax, if they meet certain conditions.
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