Democratic press conf 1-10-22

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, left, and Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, right, speak at a press conference at the Idaho State Capitol on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, on Democratic reactions to GOP Gov. Brad Little's State of the State and budget address.

Democratic leaders from both the House and the Senate were highly critical this afternoon of the thrust of Gov. Brad Little’s proposals for the state for next year, particularly with regard to his plan for the state’s biggest-ever income tax cuts. “As the governor noted, this is a time of great opportunity, but I believe it’s also a time of great potential peril if we do not act responsibly,” said House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise. “This session could go one of two directions. We could use the resources we have to finally fix some of the serious problems that threaten our future,” including “underfunded public education system, a housing crisis, a property tax crisis and more.”

“These problems could largely be fixed this year with the funds we have available,” she said. “Or we could get bogged down in divisive social issues and let our real problems fester and worsen while the money in our treasury is showered upon the wealthy without any measurable benefit to the working families of Idaho.”

She said minority Democrats have a series of bills prepared to accomplish their goals, from relieving property taxes to attracting educators to rural Idaho to repealing the grocery tax while keeping an existing refundable grocery tax credit in place. “We hope that these bills will not again be blocked from receiving hearings and votes, as has happened for the last three years,” Rubel said.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett said for several years, Democrats have started the session saying they appreciate the governor’s ideas, only to end up with legislation “that’s rapid and fire-drill in the last week that is poorly crafted and doesn’t meet the needs.”

“This is a truly good opportunity to do really meaningful things that will truly help for decades,” she said.

Rubel said she would be “delighted” to see the governor’s proposed 7% funding increase for higher education pass. “There is a war on higher education going on right now,” she said. “The (Idaho) Freedom Foundation has pulled the veil away and exposed that they are genuinely opposed to any kind of public education at any level and they don’t think we should have public universities. … I don’t know if it’s adequate, but we live in the world of the possible, and that’s, I hope, possible.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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