Yesterday was the deadline for turning in petitions in Idaho, and it didn’t exactly go as pundits expected in this solidly red state. A much hyped initiative to limit property taxes to 1 percent of total assessed value fell well short of the 47,881 signature threshold, while a teachers union initiative to increase education spending 20 percent by raising the sales tax a penny, turned in nearly 80,000 signatures.
That’s right, Idaho voters refused to sign an initiative limiting property taxes, but enthusiastically supported a sales tax increase to raise money for education. Not exactly what us snotty city folk expect from a state like Idaho, huh?
Meanwhile, sponsors claim an initiative to tighten eminent domain laws will easily qualify for the ballot after paying canvassers $2.00 per signature, but Secretary of State Ben Ysursa sounded skeptical:
“I’d be surprised if eminent domain was on the ballot,” Ysursa said.
For its part, the Idaho Education Association successfully used a 14 person staff to organize 3,400 volunteer signature gatherers. If approved by voters, the initiative would raise the state’s sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent, providing an additional $200 million a year to fund education.
Of course, successful signature drives owe at least as much to the proficiency of the organizers as they do to the issues, so I’m reluctant to read too much into this. But I think it does prove that even traditionally conservative voters cannot be counted on to be reliably knee-jerk when it comes to tax issues. Even in Idaho.