Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Tax opponents find themselves unable to compete

I have a suggestion for the Kuna School District and other government districts looking to raise their constituents’ taxes. Instead of holding multiple elections until voters answer their tax increase question correctly, how about they just eliminate “no” as a possible answer?

This way we can end the endless parade whenever voters dare to defy the will of the elected officials. And we can avoid seeing elected officials like Kuna school trustee Michael Law being tarred and feathered for daring to uphold the will of the people who voted no.

Law opposed the levy, even campaigned against it. He said the tax increase was unaffordable and that the district could spend money more wisely. Kuna voters decided in March not to approve the $3.19 million levy, but shortly thereafter, the school board, not hearing the answer it wanted from voters, asked to place the issue back on the ballot May 20.

Law voted against putting the measure back on the ballot, meaning he is defending the outcome of the March election. And now he is facing a recall election.

But there are far better models for electioneering. Might I suggest the North Korea Model, where, around the same time Kuna voters were struggling with a tax increase, Kim Jong Un won election to that country’s highest legislative body with 100 percent of the vote. And turnout for the election was 100 percent.

How nice. No fretting about close votes. No worries about people standing in the way with countercultural “information brochures” and “opposing views” and such.

Multiple elections to reach the desired outcome? No longer a problem. Thanks, Kim Jong Un, for lighting the way.

Of course, I kid. But this is hardly the first time Idaho political subdivisions have brought back defeated tax increases until voters “got it right.” It is frustrating. And expensive.

In fact, some of the school trustees contacted by IdahoReporter.com  indicated they hadn’t thought about the costs involved in asking voters the same question again and again. School districts can go back to the polls up to four times a year to pose the tax question.

And districts are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach to elections, ginning up phone calls and emails to every parent in the district, holding “community night” or bake and book sales on Election Day, sending FAQ sheets on the ballot question to parents as inserts in children’s report cards.

Tax opponents find themselves nearly unable to compete against the election machine that is their local public school. The deck is stacked against them. No longer do districts have to make a strong case for a tax increase; they need only make the same weak case again and again until they get the result they demand.

State law allows do-overs. That is, unless the tax increase passes. In even the most narrow victories, it’s game over.

Property tax increases deserve better consideration. Under state law, failure to pay property taxes can result in you losing your property, even if you own it outright, even if your mortgage is paid in full.

“No” used to be an important choice on ballots to raise taxes. It’s the one thing that separates us from the North Koreans. Or at least, it used to.


Wayne Hoffman

Wayne Hoffman

Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a non-partisan educational research institute and government watchdog.

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