Expect something special to start tomorrow.
This is the official name for a special session in which Governor Brad Little summons members of the Idaho Legislature to Boise. Only a governor could convene such a meeting, and Little did so not to deal with the crisis, but to decide what to do with the millions of dollars pouring into the state’s bank accounts.
We should all be so lucky.
The governor’s plans are split into two large buckets.
Bucket 1: Large tax cuts and rebates for citizens.
Bucket 2: Significant additional investment in public education.
Now, this is Idaho, and there is no loud chorus of citizens demanding the royal crown because they want money back in the people’s pockets. But Bucket 2 has some blushing-voiced critics and slightly confused bystanders.
Led by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, whose mission is to abolish public education in the state, vocal critics don’t care that it’s a constitutional mandate. The confusing part is explained here.
The Governor’s plan for Bucket 2 includes taking a sizable chunk of the surplus that could reach $2 billion and continuing his stated goal of getting closer to adequately funding public education. His plan is to apply $330 million annually to K-12 and $80 million annually to in-demand career training outside of K-12. These numbers increase by 3% each year.
Throwing money at a problem rarely solves the problem, but Idaho, in most indicators, is committed to helping students prepare for the future, not only for their own benefit, but for the state as well. There are not enough qualified people to hire, so thousands of high-paying jobs go unfilled. A thriving economy helps everyone, and few have supported education as a means to that end.
There is confusion as another large public education investment proposal is on the blackboard, an initiative to be decided by voters on Nov. 8.
Led by the good people who helped expand Medicaid through a similar initiative more than two-and-a-half years ago, the initiative raises taxes on businesses and the state’s richest individuals, saving about $323 million in bills annually. The funds will be used to strengthen the K-12 program and improve salaries for teachers and support staff.
If Little’s extraordinary session is successful, and if there is any indication that it is based on a large number of co-sponsored legislators, it will take precedence over the ballot initiative, even if voters approve it within months.
From now on, please pay attention to reliable sources for both funding proposals, not information from specific interest groups. Idaho is likely facing something extraordinary, and rather than accept the distorted image presented by extremists on both sides, it needs to understand what it really means. .