State Politics

Idaho university leaders warn of US tax reform’s ‘damaging consequences’ to education

Idaho’s congressional delegation. From left: Sen. Jim Risch, Rep. Raul Labrador, Rep. Mike Simpson, Sen. Mike Crapo.
Idaho’s congressional delegation. From left: Sen. Jim Risch, Rep. Raul Labrador, Rep. Mike Simpson, Sen. Mike Crapo.

The leaders of Idaho’s public higher education institutions in a Dec. 7 letter urged the state’s congressional delegation not to support federal tax reform provisions that “would have damaging consequences for Idaho public colleges and universities and the students they serve.”

Reps. Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson, and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch all supported their chambers’ respective bills overhauling U.S. tax code and revising a number of exemptions or incentives. U.S. House and Senate leaders are now hammering out the details between their respective bills in hopes of getting a final package to President Donald Trump by Christmas.

The university leaders highlighted five concerns in particular:

▪  Ending the Hope Scholarship, Lifetime Learning Tax Credit and the tax deduction for student loan interest will remove tools that make college more affordable, they said.

▪  Choosing to tax tuition waivers for employees and students is “counterintuitive and punitive,” they said, and may particularly harm college employees pursuing professional development, and graduate students involved in teaching and research.

▪  New limits on types of bonds colleges and universities can use to finance construction projects will make those harder to do and more expensive, they said.

▪  They fear increasing the standard deduction given to taxpayers will discourage people from itemizing their deductions, and offer less incentive for charitable giving as a result.

▪  They believe a change in how certain business income tax is calculated will also result in additional costs.

“We hope that you and your colleagues will take the time necessary to consider the wide-ranging effects of such broad and complex legislation,” the letter states.

The presidents of all eight of Idaho’s public colleges and universities signed the letter. They include Bob Kustra (Boise State University), Rick Aman (College of Eastern Idaho), Jeff Fox (College of Southern Idaho), Bert Glandon (College of Western Idaho), Arthur Vailas (Idaho State University), Anthony Fernandez (Lewis-Clark State College), Rick MacLennan (North Idaho College) and Chuck Staben (University of Idaho). Matt Freeman, Idaho State Board of Education executive director, also signed.

You can read the letter at this link.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell