The House has dug into a late-session Statehouse battle over property taxes, school funding and school elections.

On a party-line vote, the House rejected the Senate’s attempt to rewrite a property tax relief bill and strike a compromise with Gov. Brad Little.

Public schools have a high stake in this showdown. Lawmakers are debating whether to provide $100 million, or more, that schools can use to pay down bonds or levies or cover future building projects. They are also debating whether to eliminate the standalone March school election — the most commonly used date for bond and levy requests.

The debate came to a head Monday, when Little vetoed House Bill 292, a property tax overhaul promising $355 million in immediate relief — partly because the bill eliminated the March school elections. The Senate moved quickly Monday, rewriting a House-passed tax bill to incorporate many pieces of HB 292, while addressing the concerns raised in Little’s veto. For instance, the Senate rewrite left the March school elections intact.

Cardboard boxes are usually a harbinger — a sign that lawmakers are preparing to pack up and adjourn for the session. Empty boxes lined a hallway outside House chambers Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday morning, it was the House’s move. They quickly voted down the Senate’s attempt to fashion an unrelated tax bill, House Bill 198, into a reimagined property tax proposal. And Rep. David Cannon, R-Blackfoot, reminded colleagues that the Idaho Constitution gives the House the unique power to write revenue-generating legislation.

“The amendments are hostile,” Cannon said. “The bill has come back in a form that is unrecognizable.”

Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, urged colleagues to accept the Senate’s rewrite. “It’s a fantastic property tax bill.”

House GOP leadership doubled down on its version of property tax relief Tuesday, introducing a bill designed to address another one of Little’s concerns. Little had said HB 292 stymied $400 million in transportation projects because it jeopardized the state’s ability to use sales taxes to bond for the roadwork. The House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill that would earmark at least $80 million of sales tax revenue for this purpose.

Meanwhile, another Statehouse showdown looms. The House hasn’t yet attempted to override Little’s veto of HB 292 — but such a floor vote appears inevitable.

HB 292 passed the House on a 63-7 vote and passed the Senate on a 32-3 vote, margins that would exceed the two-thirds threshold needed to override a veto.

The property tax staredown has slowed activity at the Statehouse. Legislative leaders had hoped to wrap up this year’s session last week. Now, it’s unclear when the 2023 session will adjourn.

And amidst the impasse, several high-profile education issues are on hold.

Running through a long list of pending legislation, the Senate skipped two remaining K-12 budget bills, proposals that must pass both houses. The House skipped over a Senate-passed bill to tweak “Idaho Launch,” Little’s proposal to provide cash incentives to high school graduates seeking to pursue in-demand careers.

Senate approves CTE funding

The Senate approved funding for state superintendent Debbie Critchfield’s career technical education plan Tuesday morning.

The spending bill appropriates $45 million for the Idaho Career Ready Students Program — Critchfield’s new capital fund for CTE projects and partnerships in school districts across the state. It will be administered by the State Department of Education. The bill allocates another $5 million to the Division of Career Technical Education for added-cost CTE funding.

With a 28-6 vote, the spending bill will now head to the governor’s desk.

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