BOISE, Idaho – Lawmakers of Idaho gather in Boise on Monday for the start of the 2023 legislative session, focusing on how to best use Idaho’s whopping budget surplus. As usual, the supermajority of the Idaho Statehouse was held by Republicans, but this year, roughly 40 out of 105 lawmakers were newly elected.
In recent years, Idaho’s monthly revenue exceed projections, propelled by fast population growth and three influxes of assistance for COVID-19 which heated the economy of the state. The state’s budget surplus last month was projected to exceed $1.5 billion. Tax cuts proposals are likely to happen due to big budget surpluses, but the tax cut and last major income were just passed in September which could make property tax relief a priority this year.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little noted during the legislative preview the affordability of housing is an issue, and that the state has got some work to do regarding property taxes. Conflicting ideas about the best approach were presented. Some lawmakers favor the restriction of local government budgets as a better way to control property tax, while others favor the increase of partial tax exemption for homeowners or an increase in the funding for the costs borne by local governments.
Lawmakers also need to decide how to exactly give out a $410 million annual increase in education funding, based on the bill passed during their special session last fall. The funds came from sales taxes, wherein $330 million is allocated for K-12 public education, and another $80 million is allotted for the training of residents for in-demand occupations.
Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow, a Democrat from Boise said it will remain a democratic priority to meet the state’s obligation to fully pay for public education and keep funds in public education. A school voucher system allowing parents to take public education funding was proposed by some lawmakers last year. Parents can use the funding for private schools, homeschooling, or tutoring.
Wintrow said, “We’ve heard about the competition for resources and the tension that creates for education, so let’s not increase that tension anymore,
In the house of Chamber, the session will start with Gov. Brad Little’s annual State of the State Address at 1 p.m.