Teacher Leah Jones speaks to Reclaim Idaho volunteers and supporters on July 6, 2022, at the Idaho State Capitol. (Clark Corbin/Idaho Capital Sun)
Officials with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office are taking responsibility for a typographical error in the inflation calculations mistakenly attributed to the Quality Education Act that will be on Idaho voters’ ballots in November.
The inflation calculation error, which involved switching a numerator with a denominator, appeared to indicate that when inflation went up, the dollar threshold for the relevant tax bracket would go down.
But that error came from the state, said Scott Graf, a spokesman for the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. The error was not used in the official paperwork or ballot language submitted by the Reclaim Idaho organizers that pushed for the education funding initiative and collected the necessary signatures to get the initiative on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
That means the error won’t be used in calculating inflation for the Quality Education Act if voters approve it.
Earlier this summer, the issue came to light following a July 14 article written by the Tax Foundation. The article suggested that a series of errors in the drafting and calculations of the Quality Education Act would lead to a much larger tax increase and generate much more revenue than organizers with the group Reclaim Idaho originally promoted.
“At the time … our office did not know how or when the denominator and numerator were reversed,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane wrote in a statement that Graf sent to reporters. “We now know it was an inadvertent typographical error that was made by our office in the certificate of review. The mistake is ours.”
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Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville also said in an interview last month with the Sun that the error came from the state, not the official ballot language for the Quality Education Act.
Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press reported Sunday that the Idaho Attorney General’s Office had taken responsibility for the error. Graf forwarded Kane’s responses to Russell to the Sun on Monday, and said the Idaho Attorney General’s Office declined to comment further.
What is the Quality Education Act from Reclaim Idaho?
The Quality Education Act is a K-12 education funding ballot initiative that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballots as Proposition 1. Organizers with Reclaim Idaho, the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization behind the successful 2018 Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative, proposed and promoted the Quality Education Act. Reclaim Idaho officials say passing the Quality Education Act would raise about $323 million per year for a new fund for public schools. It would take a simple majority of voters to pass the initiative, and local schools could use the money to hire more teachers, increase pay for educators, expand curriculum, purchase classroom materials, expand kindergarten or invest in programs such as foreign language, music, art or career-technical education classes.
To pay for the new funding, passing the Quality Education Act would increase the state’s corporate income tax rate from 6% to 8% and create a new tax bracket at 10.925% for individuals making more than $250,000 per year or families making more than $500,000 per year. Passing the initiative would not affect property tax rates or sales tax rates.
In a July 29 interview with the Sun, Mayville, the Reclaim Idaho co-founder, pointed out that the inflation error came from the state’s certificate of review process, which was completed back on March 26. However, Kane’s recent responses to questions from reporters indicate that Kane and other state officials didn’t yet realize the error originated with the state.
However, Kane did say in his most recent comments that some sort of legislative action will likely be necessary if the Quality Education Act initiative passes to ensure the intent of drafters of the initiative is followed. During the 2022 legislative session, Idaho legislators passed and Gov. Brad Little approved a $600 million tax cut package that did many things, including decreasing the corporate income tax rate from 6.5% to 6% and reducing the number of income tax brackets in Idaho from five to four.
The initiative will go before voters Nov. 8, and legislators will be back at the Idaho State Capitol in early December for their organizational session and return again Jan. 9 for the normal 2023 legislative session.
“…if the initiative is enacted, it is a law of the State of Idaho on equal footing with every other law — in that regard, the legislature is free to amend or repeal the initiative as it sees fit,” Kane wrote.
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