GOP senators disagree on how to spend surplus

The Idaho Senate

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by Justin Corr

Bio | Email | Follow: @JCorrKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 9 at 1:50 AM

BOISE -- The Idaho Legislature is moving closer to ending the session. However, there is one issue that lawmakers say will keep them there until Friday, and possibly into next week.

It's a disagreement on how surplus money should be spent, and the main point of contention is whether to give taxpayers a break, or to save for a rainy day.

"That's the issue between now and going home," said Senate GOP Caucus Chair Russ Fulcher (R-Meridian).

Fulcher says there's about a $105 million surplus that's likely going to be split evenly between restoring teacher salaries, tax cuts, and savings accounts.

"We do not have that resolved right now, but we do believe that we're close," said Fulcher.

However, at a closed-door meeting of the Senate GOP Wednesday, Fulcher says Republican lawmakers couldn't agree on how they wanted to disperse that money. Most agree on the restoration of teacher pay, and a bill that would do just that made it out of committee Wednesday. The measure restores reductions planned under last year's 'Students Come First' education reforms, but prioritizes the reforms, including merit pay and laptops, for any new funding.

"I don't see that as an issue," said Fulcher. "I think that, for the most part, the House and the Senate agree on how to deal with that."

But, there's still a divide among Senate Republicans on where the rest of those funds should go. Some say $35 million should go to a Gov. Otter-backed tax cut and $35 million to savings.

The bill providing that tax cut for people and corporations, (which has a hearing in a Senate committee Thursday), would save about $71-a-year for families making $100,000 in salary.

Others say the remaining $70 million should only go to savings.

"Philosophically, a lot of people think that if we have any kind of money left over it should go right back to the taxpayers, and there's a legitimate argument for that," said Fulcher. "Others say, 'Well, if it wasn't for savings we would've been really in bad shape over the last three years because we drained those savings accounts.' So you've got equally valid concerns."

Fulcher says lawmakers cannot leave town until this issue is resolved.

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