Yes, Idaho will see a decrease in city, county and state revenue because of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Brad Little told callers in a weekly COVID-19 town hall hosted by the AARP Idaho.
No, Little doesn’t expect to raise taxes.
In calls with other governors, Little says some states anticipate losses of up to 35 percent in tax revenue. But Little doesn’t expect Idaho to take a hit that bad. Between cushion from the state’s rainy-day fund, spending adjustments (including budget holdbacks from state agencies), and federal funds intended to offset tax shortfalls, Little is optimistic Idaho will weather the economic impact without raising sales or income taxes.
“I see no anticipation of increasing taxes,” Little said adding: “I’m reluctant to say never, but I don’t see that that is a probability.”
The coronavirus-fueled downturn — marked by a sudden and dramatic surge in jobless claims — is already affecting education budgets. Little’s budget holdbacks, announced in March, will cut $19 million from K-12 and about $3 million from higher education. While the federal coronavirus stimulus money will provide nearly $120 million for Idaho education, ongoing school funding is directly tied to state sales and income tax collections. Both are likely to shrink as a result of the current downturn.
Little joined governors around the country in issuing a stay-at-home order. Last week, he extended his March 25 order through April 30, while allowing some previously closed businesses to start offering curbside and delivery service.
In the AARP call, Little repeatedly said most Idahoans are heeding the request that they stay at home to help curb the spread of the virus.
When one caller asked about last week’s protests against the stay-at-home order — including a rally at the Statehouse that gathered several hundred protestors and Republican legislators — Little replied that he’s “fairly impressed” that he hasn’t seen more protests.
“I understand how hard this is for some people, how counter it is,” Little said. “I’ve never been accused of being a big-government guy my whole life. That’s not who I am.”
Protestors argue the stay-at-home order is blatant government overreach.
At Friday’s rally, protestors chanted phrases such as, “we do not consent,” and raised signs saying “my liberties are not yours to take,” the Idaho Statesman reported. Republican legislators spoke out against the order and business people claimed they would open their doors, flouting Little’s requests.
Groups behind the protest — including the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Idaho Second Amendment Alliance and Health Freedom Idaho — said the demonstrations will continue, The Statesman reported.