Idaho voters Tuesday agreed to pay more than $100 million in additional taxes over the next few years when they approved 36 new school district levies. Reliance on supplemental levies to shore up school budgets has increased dramatically since the recession spurred cuts in state funding.
David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State, says the legislature is increasingly shifting the responsibility to fund education to local homeowners who pay property taxes. He says Tuesday’s levy votes reveal a disconnect between voters and lawmakers.
For the past three days, the presidents of Idaho’s state colleges and universities have stood before lawmakers. They’ve all made the case for why their school should get state money. But that’s been an increasingly tough sell over the years.
This year Idaho’s colleges and universities got a $19 million boost from lawmakers. But after several years of cuts that only brought higher education spending back to 2006 levels. And even in times when schools were getting more money each year, the increases did not keep pace with growth.
At the Idaho Legislature they call this Education week. The state’s education leaders go before budget writers to make the case for why they should get the money they’ve asked for. For the first few days it’s higher education. Monday morning presidents from Boise State and Idaho State are in the hot seat. So forget cross state sports rivalries, this is true high stakes competition.
Monday Idaho’s 2013 legislative session begins with Governor Butch Otter’s State of the State address. Speaking to reporters Friday Otter hinted at what he might say.
“The state of the state is in pretty good shape,” he said. “It’s in great shape when I compare it to the stories I hear from a lot of my colleagues in the different governors’ organizations that I belong to.”
Otter says he’ll propose a budget that is balanced and sound with no new revenue. But there’s a lot he hasn’t revealed.