Although the Presidents of Idaho’s six institutions of Higher Education didn’t officially reject Risch’s plan to cut property taxes, they were unaminous in their criticism. According to an article in the Idaho Statesman:
Gov. Jim Risch’s proposed property tax cut could hurt higher education, cost students more money to attend Idaho colleges and harm the state’s economy, Idaho’s college presidents said today.
University of Idaho President Tim White called the tax plan “the elephant in the room” whose unintended consequences could be to raise college tuition or cut services at Idaho’s public universities.
Risch has proposed removing $250 million from property taxes that go to Idaho’s K-12 schools and replacing it with a one-cent sales tax increase and $50 million from the state’s $200 million surplus.But the seven presidents of Idaho’s two-year and four-year colleges said the legislature would likely feel pressure to use some of that sales tax increase to fund other rising costs, such as Medicaid and corrections, in future years. That could set up intense competition betwee n higher education and public education for resources which could become increasingly scarce.
“I’ve never seen a situation like this where higher education won out,” said Bob Kustra, BSU president. “Higher education shouldn’t be put in a position of it getting what is left over.”
If higher ed revenue drops or doesn’t keep pace with rising costs, colleges would have two choices, White said: reduce services or raise tuitions and fees. Either choice could hurt affordability and quality of higher ed that could in turn negatively impact the state’s economy, White said.