If you’ve ever thought — or even hoped — that your Republican legislators care as much about education as the average voter, last week should be a wakeup call.
In fact, if you care about schools, conservation, safe roads and bridges, faster service from the DMV, mental and physical health, crime fighting, or even overall fairness, the ‘tax cut’ bill introduced last week by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee should make you see red.
To start with, HB 199 is a tax increase for most Idahoans. Instead of cutting the sales tax on groceries — something promised long ago by the legislature — it lowers the overall sales tax by $0.007 per dollar. That is, the sales tax on $200 would be cut from $12 to $10.60.
And, in exchange for this, Idahoans would be giving up the current $100 per person tax credit for the sales tax on groceries. For a family of four to come out even on this exchange, they’d have to pay sales tax on $57,140 worth of purchases annually. That, of course, doesn’t include spending for housing, utilities, and medical.
And this bill does nothing to decrease property taxes. In fact, taking funds from the state’s general fund will likely increase the amount of property taxes that local governments and schools need.
What HB 199 does cut is the income tax. Rates would drop between 0.125% for the lowest bracket and 0.4% for the highest. In other words, the richer one is, the more one will benefit.
A typical Republican ‘tax decrease.’
The sales tax cut doesn’t take effect until January 2023 so the drop in state revenues is estimated at $265.4 million for FY 2022 and $436.3 million for FY 2023 — $701,673,800 for two years.
That will take up the entire $600 million surplus and much of the special fund holding the tax and Internet sales.
And after that? Well, since the majority of our Republican legislators have pledged never to raise taxes, chances are they won’t restore current rates but will expect the general fund to take the $400 million per year cut. Remember, these are legislators who are angry about paying Idaho’s 10% for Medicaid Expansion, yet insist they need $4 million to pay private lawyers to defend laws they know are unconstitutional.
According to Wallethub only seven states have lower taxes than Idaho. Seven.
Every state has better funded schools. Every. State.
And look at the education bills Republicans have introduced this year. HB106 would do away with the August election date for school levies and bonds. HB174 would allow school districts to issue contracts without negotiating with teachers. HB215 would give scholarships at 90% of per student funding at public schools for students attending elsewhere. HB66 would negate any school levy that passed if the legal description of that bond mentioned that it was replacing, increasing, or decreasing a previous levy. HB122 would allow teachers and staff with advanced carry permits to bring concealed weapons to school whether administrators approved or not. SB1045 would authorize payment for dual credit (high school and college) expenses for private school students.
None of these address the tasks of finding and retaining experienced teachers and support staff, of providing students with the resources and equipment they need, of improving communication between home and school, or of providing the best course of study possible.
Idaho legislators all say they want a great education for every child.
But it’s apparent that too many must want other things a lot more.