Luke Mayville

Proponents of a ballot initiative to increase education spending in Idaho by raising taxes on corporations and the rich say they have gathered more than 4,000 signatures already, which is more than 7 percent of what they need statewide to qualify for the ballot.

Reclaim Idaho volunteers gathered about 3,500 of those signatures on Tuesday, part of an Election Day push where they got the signatures of registered voters near polling places throughout the state, including in Rexburg and Driggs locally. Reclaim said in a news release that the group made an especial effort Tuesday to gather signatures in rural districts.

“Reclaim Idaho’s values are rooted in rural and small-town communities,” said the group’s co-founder Luke Mayville. “The people living in those areas have been ignored when it comes to their healthcare, their education and their future. We wanted to send a clear message that Reclaim Idaho is fighting for rural Idaho communities even if no one else is.”

Reclaim Idaho spokesman Jeremy Gugino said about 250 volunteers spent Tuesday gathering signatures. Many of them, he said, had previously volunteered with Reclaim Idaho during their successful 2018 effort to pass a ballot initiative expanding Medicaid in Idaho, but he said more than 100 are new volunteers who have signed up to help with the “Invest in Idaho” initiative. Gugino said Reclaim is “months ahead of where it was on Medicaid expansion,” saying Reclaim didn’t reach 10,000 signatures for that initiative until February 2018, just a couple of months before the deadline.

As well as gathering 55,057 signatures statewide, or 6 percent of the number of registered voters the state had during the last gubernatorial election, a ballot initiative to qualify also needs the signatures of 6 percent of registered voters at the last general election in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts. Gugino said the group has more than half of the signatures it needs to qualify in the Moscow-area District 5, about half of the signatures needed in Caldwell’s District 10 and about a third of the signatures needed in Treasure Valley districts 20 and 21.

“We are hearing nothing but enthusiasm on the ground from volunteers and voters alike,” Mayville said. “Idahoans are fired up about investing in Idaho’s schools, teachers and children. It’s clear Idahoans are tired of waiting on the Legislature to address the state’s education and jobs crisis.”

The proposed initiative would raise the corporate tax rate from 6.925 percent to 8 percent and would raise individual income taxes on a single person’s income over $250,000 a year or a couple making more than about $525,000 a year from 6.925 percent to 9.925 percent. Its supporters say this could generate $170 million to $200 million a year, which would be put in a special Quality Education Fund. Schools could use the money for a list of specified purposes, including paying teachers, buying school supplies and textbooks, all-day kindergarten, career technical education programs, special education and funding art, music and drama programs.

Reclaim has until April 30 to gather the signatures needed to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.