From the November 2000 Idaho Observer:

Nearly unanimous legislature wants to amend Constitution, sell Public School Endowment lands

Yes vote could cause major tax increases to fund public instruction

analysis by Bill Denman

HJR 1, perhaps the most fiscally irresponsible and politically shortsighted bills to ever be entertained in the Idaho State Legislature, passed by a margin of 45-4-1 in the House and 28-7-0 in the Senate. If voters pass the bill into law November 7, the state Constitution will be amended to allow the state to sell off Public School Endowment lands that have been providing the primary source of public instruction funding in Idaho for over 100 years.

Current law protects the lands from being sold, although they can be exchanged for other lands. The original intent was to provide a perpetual source of revenue for the public schools. This revenue would originate from timber sales, mining operations, grazing land leases, etc., plus the interest accruing from this revenue.

HJR 1, sponsored by Senator Judy Danielson of Council, would allow sale of these lands to individuals or the federal government and the money would be put in a fund which could ultimately be used for school purposes. According to this amendment, the money could also be used to purchase other lands. However, if all the money was used to purchase other lands, the result would not be much different than the current situation. The shortsighted intent of this amendment is to free up additional money for public education. When this land is sold and the money spent, schools will still need money. No longer having revenue coming from endowment lands, the state will have no choice but to raise taxes to fund schools.

The Clinton administration has recently increased its lands acquisition budget from $15 million last year to $49 million this year. It is likely the federal government will purchase much of the Public School Endowment lands to be sold by the state, which makes passage of this bill even worse for the citizens of Idaho. In addition to picking up the tab for school funding that the endowment lands presently provides, taxpayers would have to pay taxes to the federal government for management (or mismanagement) of these lands which would very likely be held in some unproductive “reserve” which further undermines Idaho's ability to generate the revenue necessary to fund its day-to-day operations.

Of Idaho's approximately $1 billion annual budget, public education is reportedly almost $700,000,000 this year.

The following state representatives voted in favor of the bill being put to a vote: Alltus, Barraclough, Bell, Bieter, Black, Boe, Bruneel, Callister, Campbell, Chase, Cheirrett, Clark, Crow, Cuddy, Deal, Denney, Ellsworth, Field(13), Field(20), Gagner, Geddes, Gould, Hadley, Hammond, Hansen(23), Hansen(29), Henbest, Hornbeck, Jaquet, Jones, Judd, Kellogg, Kempton, Kendell, Kunz, Lake, Linford, Mader, Marley, McKague, Meyer, Montgomery, Mortensen, Moyle, Pearce, Pischner, Pomeroy, Reynolds, Ridinger, Ringo, Robison, Schaefer, Sellman, Shepherd, Smith, Smylie, Stevenson, Stoicheff, Stone, Taylor, Tilman, Trail(Miller), Wheeler and Zimmermann.

Reps. Barrett, Loertscher, Sali and Wood voted against the bill. Rep. Moss was excused.

Senators who voted to pass the bill were Andreason, Boatright, Bunderson, Cameron, Crow, Danielson, Darrington, Davis, Deide, Frasure, Geddes, Ingram, Ipsen, Keough, King-Barrutia, Lee, McLaughlin, Noh, Parry, Richardson, Riggs, Risch, Sandy, Sorensen, Stegner, Thorne, Wheeler and Williams.

Senators Branch, Burtenshaw, Dunklin, Hawkins, Schroeder, Stennett, Whitworth voted against selling public school endowment lands.

HJR 1.

SECTION 4. PUBLIC SCHOOL PERMANENT ENDOWMENT FUND DEFINED. The public school permanent endowment fund of the state shall consist of the proceeds from the sale of such lands as have heretofore been granted, or may hereafter be granted, to the state by the general government, known as school lands, and those granted in lieu of such; lands acquired by gift or grant from any person or corporation under any law or grant of the general government; and of all other grants of land or money made to the state from the general government for general educational purposes, or where no other special purpose is indicated in such grant; all estates or distributive shares of estates that may escheat to the state; all unclaimed shares and dividends of any corporation incorporated under the laws of the state; all other grants, gifts, devises, or bequests made to the state for general educational purposes; and amounts allocated from the public school earnings reserve fund. Provided however, that proceeds from the sale of school lands may be deposited into a land bank fund to be used to acquire other lands within the state for the benefit of endowment beneficiaries. If those proceeds are not used to acquire other lands within a time provided by the legislature, the proceeds shall be deposited into the public school permanent endowment fund along with any earnings on the proceeds.

SECTION 2. The question to be submitted to the electors of the State of Idaho at the next general election shall be as follows:

“Shall Section 4, Article IX of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended to:

1. Change the name of the Public School Fund to the Public School Permanent Endowment Fund;

2. Provide that the fund shall consist of proceeds from the sale of school lands and amounts allocated from the Public School Earnings Reserve Fund;

3. Provide that proceeds from the sale of school lands may be deposited into a land bank fund to be used to acquire other lands within the state; and

4. To provide that if those proceeds are not used to acquire other lands within a time provided by the legislature, the proceeds shall be deposited into the Public School Permanent Endowment Fund along with any earnings on the proceeds?”

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