Idaho Press: Reports of Reclaim Idaho K-12 initiative price tag overblown


The Reclaim Idaho education funding initiative might not impose a $570 million-a-year tax hit on all Idahoans, Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press reported Sunday.

It’s the latest installment in an ongoing debate over the Reclaim Idaho initiative — and claims that the measure would inadvertently repeal income tax cuts passed by the 2022 Legislature.

“There are safeguards that are in place,” Mike Nugent, who retired in 2018 after working as the state’s chief bill-drafter for 26 years, told Russell. “To me, it’s a tempest in a teapot.”

Nugent drafted Reclaim Idaho’s Quality Education Act, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The initiative proposes $323 million a year in income tax increases — affecting corporations, individual taxpayers making more than $250,000 per year and families making more than $500,000 a year. This money would go into a fund to pay for K-12 programs.

But the language of the initiative also lists the state’s old income tax rates, because the initiative was drafted before the 2022 Legislature passed another round of tax cuts. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative lobbying group opposing the initiative, said that this wording would reverse $250 million in cuts, bringing the price tag to more than $570 million per year.

In an email last month, Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane seemed to arrive at the same conclusion. (Click here for our coverage.)

But in an email to Russell Thursday, Kane said he was only trying to answer a question analyzing “the likely effect of the initiative if adopted.” He said he was not commenting on the way the initiative was drafted.

And Kane addressed another question about the initiative: an error in the language on inflation indexing, which would shrink the state’s income tax brackets.

Kane blamed that error on an inadvertent typo. “The mistake is ours,” he told Russell.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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