Federal judge revives Reclaim Idaho initiative

Posted at 4:04 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 18:04:48-04

This article is written by Kevin Richert with Idaho Education News.

A federal judge Tuesday brought the Reclaim Idaho education funding initiative back to life — and gave state leaders a choice.

By 5 p.m. Friday, the state must pick between two options. The state can give Reclaim Idaho volunteers nearly seven weeks to gather online signatures from supporters, or the state can simply agree to put the initiative on the November ballot, bypassing the signature-gathering process entirely.

Whichever way the state goes, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s order marks a dramatic turn of events. In March, as the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold across Idaho, Reclaim Idaho had suspended its initiative efforts, putting its campaign on hold.

But Reclaim Idaho argued that Gov. Brad Little and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney had failed to provide the group another means of getting its issue on the ballot. Reclaim argued that this constituted a violation of its First Amendment rights. And after listening to an hour of oral arguments Tuesday, Winmill took the unusual step of issuing his decision on the spot. “Time is of the essence.”

At issue is Reclaim’s proposal to increase corporate income tax rates and income tax rates for Idahoans making more than $250,000 per year. The increased taxes, some $170 million, would go into a separate account that the state could tap to increase teacher pay, reduce class sizes, provide all-day kindergarten, support career-technical programs and purchase textbooks and classroom supplies.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.