What the Idaho Legislature doesn't want you to know

Why does the legislature feed voters a steady diet of fear-mongering alphabet soup (CRT, SEL, ESG, BLM, etc.) – while it does nothing to provide the property tax relief people have asked for?
Why does the legislature whip up manufactured outrage about library books and gender dysphoria in an election year – while they conveniently forget they promised to get rid of the grocery tax?
Why does the legislature create a panic about voter fraud – while never questioning the legitimacy of the results when they get elected?
Why? Because they want to distract you. They don’t want you to know what they’ve actually been doing to you, your family and your wallet for last 20 years. Let’s take a look at just one of the top issues most voters mention when I visit with them at their door – the underfunding of public education
Let’s connect the dots.
Idaho is ranked dead last in the nation – behind Alabama, Mississippi and every other state – when it comes to funding public education per student. Voters are fed up with the legislature increasing their property taxes and rents by forcing school districts to float bonds and levies every year to close the funding gap created by the legislature itself.

The fiscal elephant in the room

Solving this problem starts by revisiting fiscal policies that haven't changed in decades. One of those policies is the fiscal elephant in the room that majority party legislators don’t want you to know about: sales tax exemptions. They are never reviewed, they never expire, and some have been in place since the 1960’s. 
In 2021 alone, the legislature exempted $2.52 BILLION from revenue collection in the form of sales tax exemptions and exceptions. That is more than the entire annual education budget!  In fact, since 2005 the legislature chose to not collect a whopping $33.9 BILLION in revenue.

Just a small percentage of these annual exemptions that can no longer be justified could pay off the school bonds and provide immediate, meaningful, and lasting property tax relief. We could provide competitive compensation for teachers and pay down the state’s estimated $1 billion obligation in deferred and ignored K-12 school building maintenance (click here). And there’s more. We could fund the estimated backlog of $750 million in basic road and bridge maintenance across the state. We could even get rid of the grocery tax that the majority party promises to do – but never does.  (Note:  None of the state’s $1.9 billion surplus went toward doing any of these things.)

To be clear, we don't need to get rid of all sales tax exemptions; many of them may make sound economic sense and should therefore be retained – but they must be reviewed to find out. Legislative leaders celebrated Governor Little’s “Red Tape Reduction Act”, the sweeping review and removal of outdated administrative rules and regulations. The legislature needs to now review outdated fiscal policies to make sure we can meet the future needs of the fastest growing state in the nation – instead of anchoring Idaho to a fiscally antiquated past.
We need to address the root cause of the problem, not put Band-Aids over symptoms. That’s why I partnered with the senior Republican co-chair of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC), Representative Rick Youngblood.  JFAC writes the state’s annual budget; it is the most powerful committee in the legislature. Rep. Youngblood and I co-sponsored the first ever independent, quantitative review of tax exemption policies (called “tax preferences”) to determine how to better manage them. The results of that project were recently published by the Office of Performance Evaluations (OPE), an independent, separate and non-partisan research organization created by the legislature in the 1990’s.
I will be working with several legislators in both the House and Senate between now and November to explore ways to implement the report’s recommendations (click here). I hope to continue that work into next year and beyond.

Just one more reason to vote for the person, not just a letter in the alphabet.