Elections

In first meeting, Idaho governor candidates talk taxes, schools, roads & groceries

From left: Republican Brad Little, moderator Jasper LiCalzi and Democrat Paulette Jordan shake hands after a gubernatorial forum Oct. 2, 2018, at The College of Idaho’s Langroise Center for Performing and Fine Arts in Caldwell.
From left: Republican Brad Little, moderator Jasper LiCalzi and Democrat Paulette Jordan shake hands after a gubernatorial forum Oct. 2, 2018, at The College of Idaho’s Langroise Center for Performing and Fine Arts in Caldwell. kjones@idahostatesman.com

Idaho’s major-party candidates for governor got together Tuesday evening to talk tax and fiscal policy.

The event, hosted by The College of Idaho and the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, was not a formal debate. But as the first public forum featuring Paulette Jordan and Brad Little, it gave each a fresh chance to spell out their broad policies a month ahead of the election.

Both Little, the Republican lieutenant governor, and Jordan, the Democratic former state representative, agreed Idaho needs to put more resources into education and transportation.

Jordan said the solution is not about more spending, but “better and smarter spending.” She repeated her call to end certain tax exemptions for businesses, make “big box” stores pay their fair share and do away with “corporate welfare.”

Little said he thinks school districts consolidating some overhead costs would save money that could then be put into education programs. He suggested the same savings can be found for road projects if city and county highway districts consolidate some of their operations.

Both agreed the state’s grocery tax on food should be repealed, as long there is money to cover the hole created by the cut.

Little said new online sales tax revenue could help do this.

As a lawmaker, Jordan twice voted against bills that would have repealed the tax, but said Tuesday night: “I am firmly in favor of eliminating the grocery tax and grocery tax credit.”

Jordan, who favors marijuana decriminalization, said the state could also save money by no longer arresting and charging people for use of the drug.

Little walked the College of Idaho crowd through this state’s “three-legged stool” of taxes — sales, property and income tax. He said taxes must be simple, fair, predictable and competitive.

Debate season now begins in earnest. Both candidates will meet Oct. 13 in a KBOI-TV and KBOI radio debate, and again Oct. 15 for a debate on Idaho Public Television. KTVB will then host the pair for another debate Oct. 29.

Brad Little, Republican nominee for governor, answers a question Oct. 2, 2018, at a forum on tax and fiscal policy issues hosted by The College of Idaho and the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy.

Paulette Jordan, Democratic nominee for governor, answers a question Oct. 2, 2018, at a forum on tax and fiscal policy issues hosted by The College of Idaho and the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy.

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