Gov. Brad Little announced a special session last week, leaving many Idahoans wondering – what does that mean?
What is a special session?
The Idaho Legislature typically meets for around three months, starting the Monday on or closest to January 9 and ending in late-March or April. But the governor can call special (or extraordinary) sessions by proclamation, which is what has happened here.
During a special session, legislators have little latitude, legislators can only consider and vote on Little's proposal to cut taxes and boost education funding.
After the proposal passes or fails in a final vote, lawmakers will head home. Some will return to the Statehouse in January, but this year over a third of the 105 lawmakers will be replaced in the November election.
What's the Legislature voting on this time?
Little’s proposed legislation is a single bill that would invest an additional $410 million in education, distribute $500 million in one-time tax rebates and cut income taxes by more than $150 million per year.
The bill is the governor's attempt to use the $2 billion budget surplus to reduce the impacts of inflation on individuals and schools.
What's the likelihood that the bill passes?
The bill already has 62 legislative co-sponsors – 37 in the House and 25 in the Senate – when Little announced the special session last week. That's a majority in both chambers.
To pass, the legislation will first go through the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, where 11 of 17 members are co-sponsors. Then, it will travel to the House floor.
This is the vote to watch, since the 37 House co-sponsors make up a slim majority in the 70-member body.
If the House approves the bill with a majority vote, it’ll head to the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, where seven of nine members are co-sponsors. The session will end with a full vote in the Senate.
How long will the session last?
With this much support, it’s likely that the session will go quickly. The session starts Thursday, Sept. 1 at 8 a.m. and is expected to last just one day, or wrap up on Friday at the latest.
The governor also scheduled the session before Labor Day weekend, possibly an added incentive for lawmakers to get the bill through quickly.
How might this impact me, as an Idaho taxpayer or educator?
The legislation focuses on two areas – taxation and education.
If the governor’s proposal passes, a full-year Idaho resident who filed tax returns in 2020 and 2021 would receive a rebate equal to 10% of their income taxes paid for 2020, or a minimum of $300 for individuals and $600 for joint filers, whichever is greater.
The bill would also establish a new, flat income tax rate of 5.8% (down from 6%), and eliminate the first $2,500 of income for individuals and $5,000 for joint filers from taxation. This would amount to more than $150 million in ongoing tax cuts.
The immediate impacts of the $410 million education investment are more difficult to decipher, but we do know that $330 million would go to K-12, and the remaining $80 million would go into a new “in-demand careers fund.” These investments would increase by 3% annually.
If the bill passes, it’s up to the Legislature to further specify where the education funding will be invested.
EdNews reporters will cover Thursday's special session. Check back for details.