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Judge Keeps ID Tax Initiative Alive; State Attempts to Block Ruling

Henryk Sadura
Adobe Stock

Supporters of an initiative to tax corporations and wealthy Idahoans in order to fund education will begin to collect signatures again next week.

A federal judge's ruling in the case this week is allowing signature gathering to continue after it was interrupted because of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Luke Mayville, who co-founded the group behind the measure, Reclaim Idaho, says they still have a long way to go.

"Well, it's not going to be easy to collect over 30,000 signatures," Mayville admits. "We've never done an electronic signature drive before. But with all of the enthusiasm of thousands of supporters all across the state, we're confident that we can get this done."

The judge's decision gives supporters of the initiative 48 days starting on July 9 to collect signatures.

But late Wednesday, Idaho officials filed an emergency motion to put the judge's order on hold. Gov. Brad Little and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney have said signatures for ballot measures need to be collected in person.

Little plans to cut $99 million from the public education budget because of COVID-19.

Mayville notes that Idaho already has lagged for years behind other states in education spending. A National Education Association report from 2019 ranked Idaho last among the states for per-pupil spending.

"A lot of people are worried these cuts are going to bring us down even further, so we have got to invest in education," he says. "People around the state understand that, and they're yearning for an opportunity to vote for an initiative like this one."

If passed, the measure would raise taxes on corporations and people making more than $250,000 a year, raising about $170 million annually.

Sufficient numbers of signatures must be collected in at least 18 of Idaho's legislative districts. Mayville says they've qualified in 15 so far.