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Eye on Boise: How governor has laid groundwork for special session bill

Gov. Brad Little has laid the groundwork for his single bill, cutting taxes and permanently increasing education funding, to pass both houses.
Credit: KTVB

BOISE, Idaho —

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press 

Going into Thursday’s special session of the Legislature, Gov. Brad Little has laid the groundwork for his single bill, cutting taxes and permanently increasing education funding, to pass both houses. 

Here’s how: He’s lined up so many sponsors and co-sponsors that they make up majorities of both committees that will hear the bill, the House and Senate tax committees; and of both the full House and the full Senate. 

All but one member of the GOP House and Senate leadership are signed on as sponsors of the bill. That includes Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder; Majority Leader Kelly Anthon; Assistant Majority Leader Abby Lee; and Majority Caucus Chair Mark Harris. On the House side, it includes Speaker Scott Bedke, Majority Leader Mike Moyle, and Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks. 

The one name missing from that GOP leadership list: House Majority Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett. But Blanksma isn’t opposing the bill. 

“I didn’t list my name on the front of the bill because I didn’t participate in its drafting, and I don’t want to take credit for things that I didn’t participate in writing,” Blanksma told the Idaho Press. “That does not indicate that I oppose the bill. I don’t oppose the bill.” 

In addition to the GOP leadership members, co-sponsors of the bill include House Revenue & Taxation Committee Chair Steven Harris, R-Meridian, and Senate Local Government & Taxation Chair Jim Rice, R-Caldwell. Plus, there are an additional 20 senators and 33 representatives, from both parties, co-sponsoring the measure. 

That makes 25 of the 35 senators, including four Democrats; and 37 of the 70 House members, including seven Democrats. That’s more than a majority of each of the houses. 

Also, seven of the nine members of the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee, including Rice, are co-sponsoring or sponsoring the bill; as are 11 of the 17 members of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, including Harris. That likely ensures the bill would easily clear the committees, both of which it would need to pass through before reaching full votes on the House and Senate floors. 

The governor’s office has posted the full list of sponsors and cosponsors online on the governor’s official website, gov.idaho.gov, along with the bill’s Statement of Purpose and fiscal note. 


Winder said he’s been asked why lawmakers wouldn’t address property tax relief or repealing the grocery tax during a special session instead of income tax cuts. “They’re complicated issues,” he said. By contrast, a one-time income tax rebate, which is part of the governor’s proposal, is relatively simple and can be quickly accomplished, especially given that the state just did one in the spring. 

Currently, Winder noted, only the governor can call the Legislature back for a special session, under the Idaho Constitution, and specify the topics to be considered. He said that’s “exactly” why lawmakers have placed a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that, if approved by a majority of voters, would allow them to call themselves into special session. 

The amendment would allow lawmakers to meet in special session whenever 60% of the members of each house sign a petition for it; the petition would specify the topics that could be addressed. It doesn’t have any limits on the length or frequency of self-called legislative special sessions. 

Winder said income tax rebates, like those the governor is proposing, are “a simple way to give money back as quickly as possible.” 

He added, “I think the session in January is going to be a really good session. I think there’s some good people coming in.” He said he’s talked to some of them, and “they’re not offended” that lawmakers are reconvening this fall “to get money back to the people.” 

Winder said during the special session, anticipated to be just a single day, “We want to have everyone there early, so that we can have the committee hearings and let the public testify.” That will include remote testimony, through the same system used during the regular session. The special session will start at 8 a.m. 


After Gov. Brad Little’s press conference last week announcing the upcoming special session, I asked Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, who appeared with Little at the press conference, why she and other legislative Democrats are supporting the Republican governor’s proposal. 

“Democrats have been pushing for years to have a bigger investment in education,” she said. “Our schools are desperate now.” She noted the difficulty Idaho school districts are having filling hundreds of teacher vacancies. 

In June, a State Board of Education survey of Idaho school districts identified nearly 900 teacher vacancies in Idaho that school districts were unable to fill, and that was with only 78 of the 115 districts responding. 

“We’ve dug ourselves a pretty deep hole, and this is a first step to undo some of that,” Ward-Engelking said. 

On the proposed tax rebate, Ward-Engelking said, “The governor listened to us,” and called for a minimum of $300 per person, or $600 for a married couple filing jointly, up from the minimum $75 that most Idaho taxpayers received in the last round of rebates. “Seventy-five dollars was not enough,” Ward-Engelking said. 

She said Democrats are concerned about the long-term reduction in state revenue that the permanent individual and corporate income tax rate cuts in the bill will bring. “We know we can handle it for five years,” she said. “But the other two pieces outweigh that.” 

Those are the one-time rebates and the big, permanent boost to education funding, with $330 million a year for K-12 public schools and $80 million for higher ed, plus inflation of 3% a year. “My Democratic colleagues and Reclaim Idaho pushed the need to the forefront and made it known,” Ward-Engelking said. “This gets it started.” 

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press. Read more at IdahoPress.com 

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