Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy Director Lauren Necochea reminded Idaho lawmakers Tuesday morning what too many Idahoans already know—the Gem State in need of good jobs with good wages but continues to do a lackluster job funding higher education.
The Idaho Legislature's Tax Working Group, comprised of a bipartisan group of Idaho House and Senate legislators, is hearing from a number of experts Tuesday, including representation from the retail and energy sectors. Necochea, representing the non-political policy center, shared a series of data-driven charts and graphs that revealed how Idaho stacks up against its regional neighbors.
"Idaho ranks very well for business friendliness and when it comes to the cost of doing business here," said Necochea. "But we're weak when it comes to technology. And our weakest area is in education."
Necochea said her own father was able to obtain a college degree from Boise State University while funding his tuition and fees from summer jobs. Current Idaho families find it increasingly difficult to afford to send the next generation to college.
"Fewer of Idaho high-school seniors are going on to Idaho colleges," she said. "And that's after a statewide campaign urging students to 'go on.'"
When it came to funding K-12 public education, Necochea said inadequate funding has forced to many middle- and low-income families to shoulder the burden of keeping local school districts funded through supplemental levies.
Finally, Necochea urged lawmakers to continue scrutinizing tax exemptions and/or rebates—particularly those earmarked for particular businesses or sectors.
"We should be looking if those exemptions, rebates or reductions are serving their intended purpose," said Necohcea. "Are they they working for all of us and not just one company? We should scrutinize them as much as any other part of the budget."