Ever since Gov. Jim Risch announced that Idaho has a $200 million budget surplus, that money has become a political football as politicians of all stripes have announced that they have a good use for the cash.
The latest was Tom Luna, the Republican candidate for Idaho Superintendent of Schools. In a release that coincided with the outburst of school shootings this month, Luna said it was time for schools to up the ante on school security.
"If we can spend $130 million to renovate and expand the Statehouse, we can find the money to protect our children from violence," Luna said.
Luna said every classroom should have, at minimum, an outside telephone line and a silent alarm. Every school should have a basic closed-circuit surveillance system and have the ability to lock doors at the push of a button.
Also Bill Sali, the Republican candidate for Congress, has a radio ad that suggests we take a break on the state's gas tax for three months. His estimate is that families would save 25 cents on every gallon of gas. Referencing the surplus, Sali said, "It should be easy," and, "the state can afford to do something."
Republicans aren't the only ones with an eye on the state's extra bucks. Democrats wanted to use the surplus to give property tax relief, when they were trying to come up with an alternative to the tax shift that resulted from the one-day special session of the Idaho Legislature. Likewise, the campaign pushing for the passage of Proposition 1--which would direct the Legislature to spend $200 million more on education--has identified the surplus as "one possible source" of the money, according to Ryan Hill, a spokesman for Invest in Our Kids.