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Economist: ID Has More Money for Schools Without Raising Taxes

GRAPHIC: The governor's proposed budget has received a makeover by groups interested in improving public schools. The bottom line is that the state can restore some budget cuts to schools, as well as give public employees meaningful pay raises, without raising taxes. Courtesy ICFP
GRAPHIC: The governor's proposed budget has received a makeover by groups interested in improving public schools. The bottom line is that the state can restore some budget cuts to schools, as well as give public employees meaningful pay raises, without raising taxes. Courtesy ICFP
January 21, 2014

BOISE, Idaho – The governor's proposed budget has received a makeover by groups interested in improving public schools.

The bottom line, the groups contend, is that the state can restore some budget cuts to schools, as well as give public employees meaningful pay raises, without raising taxes.

Michael Ferguson, executive director of the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, was the chief economist in the governor's budget office for 25 years.

He helped write an alternative budget and says the public needs to know the state isn't so poor that it can't take care of what's most important.

"And it can all be done under the basic framework of the executive budget by just recognizing a different ordering of priorities," he maintains.

Ferguson says if Idaho funded public schools at the same percentage of state coffers as it did in the 70s, 80s and 90s, funding would be set at $650 million more than what the governor is proposing.

Mike Lanza, co-founder of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together and a member of the governor's Task Force on Education, says the alternative budget busts through rhetoric claiming to be increasing funding for public schools.

"We have been, for several years now, trying to walk up the down escalator when it comes to supporting public schools, thinking we're making a little bit of progress,” he stresses. “And we're actually going backward."

The alternative budget unveiled Monday shifts less into rainy-day funds – keeping it at 10 percent – and eliminates the governor's proposal for $30 million in unspecified tax relief.

Ferguson says if there is no objective for the tax cuts, or benefits, there is no need.

The alternative plan also restores Medicaid funding for people with severe disabilities that the Legislature eliminated in fiscal 2012.


Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID