Clark Corbin/Nevada Capital Sun

Gov. Brad Little has officially called for a special session of the Idaho Legislature beginning on Sept. 1 to consider a bill aimed at cutting taxes and increasing education funding.

“Inflation is at a 40-year high, putting gas, groceries and other necessities out of reach for many Idahoans,” Little said a proclamation issued Tuesday authorizing the special session. “Idaho taxpayers and the education system are especially imperiled by the consequences of historic inflation.”

Little made the announcement at 11 a.m. Tuesday at a press conference at a Boise convenience store with House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley; Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise; Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell; and Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, also in attendance.

A special session — officially called an extraordinary session — means that the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate will convene at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. The Idaho Legislature has already adjourned for the year on March 31, and the 2023 legislative session is not scheduled to begin until Jan. 9.

Idaho legislators to consider tax cut, education investment bill

During the special session, legislators will consider a bill that Little’s advisers said would provide the largest tax cut and the largest investment in education funding in state history.

The 14-page draft bill, which Little’s office released Tuesday, would provide $500 million in one-time tax rebates, lower the income tax rate from 6% to 5.8%, establish a flat tax rate for all income tax filers and exempt the first $2,500 of income.

Under the bill, individuals would receive a one-time, minimum rebate of $300 while joint filers would receive a minimum of $600. The state would use some of its record-breaking state budget surplus, which Little said could reach $2 billion, to pay for the rebates.

The bill would also provide $330 million in ongoing, annual funding for K-12 public schools and $80 million for in-demand career training, with that portion of the money available for career-technical education, community colleges or higher education.

The bill would use the sales tax to pay for the increase in education funding each year, with the amounts increasing by 3% each year.

Little’s advisers said the bill already has bipartisan support, with  60 of the 105 legislators — including a majority in the Idaho House and Idaho Senate — signed on as cosponsors. Little and his team worked with legislators and education groups over the past two weeks to build support for the proposal, Little’s aides told reporters Tuesday morning.

Legislative special sessions are rare, but this one doesn’t come as a shock

Although special sessions are fairly rare in Idaho, this one isn’t a surprise.

A record state budget surplus, which Little said could reach $2 billion, has been fueling speculation about a special session.

Last week, Bedke issued a written statement to the Idaho Capital Sun calling for “immediate” action.

“Idaho has another record surplus due to strong conservative leadership,” Bedke said at the time. “Biden’s inflation, however, is hurting everyday Idahoans. I am working with Gov. Little and my fellow members of the Legislature on ways to provide immediate tax relief for Idaho families and small businesses while also strengthening investments for future generations.”

Under the Idaho Constitution, only Idaho’s governor may call a special session of the Idaho Legislature. This will be the fourth special session Idaho governors have called since 2000. Special sessions occurred in 2000, 2006, 2015 and, most recently in 2020.

The timing and political implications of this year’s special session could be interesting.

All Idaho legislators are coming to the end of their two-year terms, but they will be back in Boise for the special session. In 11 weeks, all 105 seats in the Idaho Legislature will be up for election during the Nov. 8 general election.

During the May primary election, 19 incumbent Republican legislators lost their reelection bids. More than 20 other legislators either aren’t running for re-election or are running for a different office this year. That means that 40 or more legislators who won’t be back in their same legislative chamber next year will be back for the special session next week.

During the Nov. 8 general election, Idaho voters will also decide whether the Idaho Legislature will be allowed to call itself back into session without the governor’s approval. Senate Joint Resolution 2, or SJR 2 for short, would allow the Idaho Legislature to call itself back into session if a majority of Idahoans vote for it on Nov. 8.