Idaho Schools Chief Candidates Meet For Third Debate

Sep 26, 2014

Idaho should “explore” a more aggressive Internet sales tax, Jana Jones said Friday.

Sherri Ybarra, meanwhile, sidestepped the question, saying tax policy is wholly the job of the Legislature.

In their third head-to-head meeting of the week, the two state superintendent’s candidates didn’t break new ground — and, once again, they generally agreed on many issues.

But Friday’s City Club of Boise forum took a bit more of a fiscal focus. The candidates were asked about funding and tax policy — including sales taxes on Internet purchases, and the 2006 tax overhaul that eliminated most school property taxes, and raised the sales tax to make up much of the difference.

In advocating for the Internet tax, the Democrat Jones echoed outgoing Republican state superintendent Tom Luna. Throughout much of his eight-year tenure, Luna has pinpointed Internet sales taxes as a possible source of new revenue for K-12.

But Jones also criticized the 2006 tax shift — engineered by then-Gov. Jim Risch and approved by the Legislature during a one-day session in August. When the state slashed school property taxes, the schools lost a stable source of day-to-day revenue. “We can’t depend on sales tax to be that funding source.”

Ybarra also has said the 2006 tax shift destabilized school funding. But on Friday, she said no one could have predicted the effects of the law, passed on the eve of the Great Recession, and deferred to lawmakers on tax issues.

“It is up to the legislators to define the taxing formula in Idaho,” she said.

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Listen to the City Club debate between Jana Jones and Sherri Ybarra on Saturday at 8 p.m. or Tuesday at 7 p.m. on KBSX 91.5 FM.