Campaign to place an income tax for education funding on Idaho ballot submits signatures

On May 2, Reclaim Idaho, the campaign behind an initiative to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000 and increase the corporate income tax rate, submitted over 95,269 signatures for verification. The required number of signatures is 64,945, which is equal to 6% of the registered voters at the state’s last general election. Idaho also has a distribution requirement that requires signatures equal to at least 6% of registered voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts to be included in petitions. Reclaim Idaho said it had met the distribution requirement in 20 legislative districts.

The initiative, referred to as the “The Quality Education Act” by the campaign, would increase the state income tax for individuals, trusts, and estates with incomes above $250,000 to $16,097 plus 10.925%. This is up from the existing rate of 6.5%. The initiative would require that the new tax income bracket be changed annually by an adjustment factor equal to the consumer price index for the calendar year of 2024 divided by the consumer price index for the calendar year preceding. The new tax brackets and tax rates would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The tax bracket would not be adjusted for inflation until 2025.

The initiative would also increase the corporate income tax from 6.5% to 8%. According to the Tax Foundation, 44 states levy a corporate income tax ranging from 2.5% in North Carolina to 11.5% in New Jersey.

The initiative would also establish the Quality Education Fund. Revenues from the increased income tax would be deposited into the fund. The initiative states that the funds should be appropriated by the state board of education. It would prohibit funds from being appropriated to pay the salaries of superintendents, principals, or other administrators. It would also give the state board of education the power to promulgate rules to implement the initiative.

Reclaim Idaho attempted to place the initiative on the ballot in 2020 but announced it was suspending its campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign filed a lawsuit against the state, which refused to allow the campaign to use DocuSign to electronically collect signatures. In July 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state ordering an emergency stay on a lower court’s order that authorized the campaign to collect signatures electronically.

The initiative has won the endorsement of the Idaho Education Association, which unanimously endorsed it at its meeting last month. Luke Mayville, a co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, said, “Most people do not view education as political. They understand that quality education relies on government, and therefore relies on politicians to do their jobs and fund public schools, but they don’t view funding for education as a controversial political topic. They view it as a no-brainer.” As of March 2022, the campaign has raised over $579,000 in contributions.

State Sen. Steven Thayn (R), who is the chair of the Senate Education Committee, said, “I am not supportive. First of all, I think it’s based on a false assumption that money will improve education, and that is not necessarily the case. The No. 1 need in education is not more money.”

The statutory deadline to submit signatures was May 1, 2022, but the secretary of state allowed campaigns to submit signatures on May 2, since the official day fell on a Sunday.

Five other initiative campaigns were cleared for signature gathering, but Reclaim Idaho is the only campaign that has collected more than the required number of signatures. The other initiatives included medical marijuana legalization, recreational marijuana legalization, an increased minimum wage, changes to initiative signature requirements, and a referendum on signature distribution requirements.

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