State Superintendent Tom Luna is staying above the fray regarding the March 13 school levies being run in many Idaho districts … or is he? In a story published today on IdahoStatesman.com, the former Nampa School Board member apparently told the paper’s editorial board last week that “he’d rather see districts hold the line on taxes, saying this isn’t a good time for schools to seek a tax increase.” To this, opinion editor Kevin Richert responded:
Yes, Luna is adhering to the Republican Party line about how a bad a time it is to raise taxes. Even though — after three years of cuts in state funding, orchestrated at a GOP-controlled Statehouse — local districts can either reduce teaching positions and instruction days, or seek an increase in the historically unpopular property tax. These levies, to no small degree, are a referendum on the state’s budget decisions.
If these levies pass, and if voters decide they value schools enough to approve a tax increase, you would think a state school superintendent might consider that a good thing.
With the levy elections coming up, it’s worth another look at the interesting chart published last week by StateImpact Idaho showing how important education jobs are to every community in Idaho. We will have a list of upcoming levies on the IEA website within a few days.
Speaking of taxes and spending, the Idaho Legislature has been doing some things differently in the past year. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee held first-ever public hearings on the health and welfare and education budgets in 2011 and repeated the practice (albeit in condensed fashion) last week.
Today, the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee and its counterpart, the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, held a first-ever joint hearing to get ideas on jump-starting Idaho’s economy. It was an interesting sign of cooperation between two panels that usually guard their own turf. All revenue measures must originate in the House, and the Senate sometimes takes delight in killing what the House proposes. Yet as Dan Popkey wrote in the Idaho Statesman today, Rep. Dennis Lake (R-Blackfoot) and Sen. Tim Corder (R-Mountain Home) agreed the hearing would help bridge the historic divides.
Although the chairs mostly invited testimony from business interests, education as an economic engine was at least on the radar, according to Corder, who said “Tax relief may be a way, but I don’t believe it’s the only way” to boost the economy. However, Emilie Ritter Saunders of StateImpact Idaho provided live blogging coverage of the meeting and it doesn’t appear that education got much discussion.