Idaho voters will decide whether to approve or reject Reclaim Idaho’s $300 million-a-year education funding initiative in the Nov. 8 vote, the Idaho Secretary of State’s office confirmed in a news release late Friday.
The initiative known as the Quality Education Act – which will likely appear as Proposition 1 on the ballot – will require a simple majority of votes to approve the education funding initiative. If the initiative does not receive a majority of the votes, the initiative fails and the level of education funding remains at current levels, with the Idaho Legislature setting public school budgets each year.
Even though Idaho is sitting on a record state budget surplus, some Republican lawmakers are looking at it as a one-time fluke and urge caution to spend. The education initiative is a form of direct democracy that, if approved by voters, will bypass the legislature to create a new, additional source of funding specifically for public schools. An analysis conducted by the state determined that the initiative would generate $323.5 million per year beginning in fiscal year 2024.
To qualify the initiative for a vote, leaders at the volunteer nonprofit organization Reclaim Idaho knocked on doors and spent more than a year collecting signatures across the state.
To qualify for the vote, the Secretary of State’s office said the group is required at least 64,945 signatures 6% of voters nationwide and 6% of voters from at least 18 different legislative districts.
The Secretary of State’s press release said the initiative had crossed that threshold in at least 19 legislative districts.
What Would Reclaim Idaho’s Quality Education Act Do?
The money raised through the education initiative could go towards reducing class size, raising salaries of teachers or other education professionals, expanding curricula, investing in educational materials, supporting programs such as theater, music, arts, foreign languages, vocational-technical education programs or more flow .
To fund the increase in education funding, the initiative would increase corporate income tax from 6% to 8% and create a new tax bracket of 10.925% for individuals earning more than $250,000 a year and families earning more than $500,000. The initiative would not affect sales tax or property tax rates.
Today, Idaho has a slightly lower corporate tax rate than neighboring states of Oregon (6.6% and 7.6%, depending on tax bracket) and Montana (6.75%), according to the nonprofit. tax foundation. If voters approve the initiative, Idaho’s corporate tax rate of 8% would be slightly higher than Oregon and Montana. Of neighboring states that levy a corporate income tax, Utah’s tax rate is the lowest at 4.85%. Washington and Nevada do not have a corporate tax, but they do have another tax called the gross receipts tax. Wyoming has no corporate income tax.
Reclaim Idaho is the same organization that led the successful 2018 Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative, which was approved by 60.6% of voters and expanded Medicaid eligibility to more Idahoans.
Regarding next steps, language “for” and “against” the initiative, which will appear on Idahoans’ ballots, was due Wednesday. State officials will review the submitted text and forward it to opposing sides for rebuttal, which is due Aug. 1, Assistant Secretary of State Chad Houck told the Idaho Capital Sun on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Reclaim Idaho organizers and volunteers will spend the fall starting a get-out-the-voting campaign aimed at getting Idahoans to vote in November and raising awareness of the initiative .
Some Idaho Republicans have opposed the initiative, while Democrats support it
Voters have yet to get involved, but the lawmakers’ response has fractured along party lines.
The two Republican chairmen of the Idaho Legislature’s education committees opposed the initiative last year, even before it was clear the initiative would qualify for the vote.
“My reaction is that it’s a huge tax hike,” House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, told the Idaho Capital Sun last year.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, had a similar reaction.
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“First of all, I think it’s based on a false assumption that money will improve education, and that’s not necessarily the case,” Thayn told the Sun.
Thayn will leave the Legislature later this year after losing his re-election bid in the May 17 Republican primary.
Meanwhile, Idaho Democrats passed a resolution during the June convention endorsing the Education Funding Initiative.
“There is unequal access to learning opportunities for Idaho children across the state because where an Idaho student lives and goes to school determines the resources and educational opportunities available to them, which largely depend on whether their community imposes an additional levy can,” the Democratic Resolution says in part.