Anyone who says the state has no options but to cut the budgets for public schools & Meidicad is forgetting a major componenet of a legislature's responsibility to balance the state's budget. Many are asking for an increase in the tobacco tax to fund medicaid. With that in mind I have asked other members of the Senate Education Committe to sign on to the following letter to the only committee in the legislature that can make changes in Idaho's taxes, exemptions, credits and incentives.
March 10, 2011 DRAFT LETTER
Chairman Lake & Members of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee,
As a committee that has been asked to make recommendations toward building a public education budget for FY2012, we are concerned that the remaining revenue available to the legislature for general fund appropriations leaves Idaho with between $6 million and $31 million less funding for the upcoming budget than we allocated for the FY 2011 budget. That budget saw a reduction of $128 million in state funding.
At the same time, Idaho student populations have increased, creating a need to fund an additional 176 new classrooms or support units at a cost of $27.3 million. Indeed funding the $27.3 million in student growth was the governors recommendation for a total of $1,235,894,000 to public schools. This amount funds all school class rooms at the reduced amount now in use for the FY 2011 budget.
Reductions to education funding on the order of $30 million or more can not occur without consequences. We will again have to consolidate, reduce or eliminate line items for textbooks, transportation, gifted and talented, Limited English Proficiency, Idaho reading initiative, Idaho math initiative, teacher incentive awards, dual credit for early graduates, math and science requirements, college entrance exams, technology, the Idaho Digital Learning Academy and more.
We recognize the reluctance to raise taxes at a time when the economy is challenging families and businesses but we feel that much deeper cuts to education will also be devastating to both.
With that in mind we encourage you to be creative and to consider not only delaying advancements in the size of Idaho’s grocery tax credit but making temporary changes to the structure of the credit to reduce its cost to 2007 levels, recovering $27 million or more to fund growth in student enrollment and assist in meeting the most basic needs of Idaho public schools in the year ahead. We would encourage a return to full funding and full structure of the credit following this fiscal year.
Members of the Senate Education Committee