IDAHO FALLS — After local Republicans passed a resolution condemning the creation of a tax district to fund a proposed community college in Idaho Falls, Bonneville County Democrats have a resolution of their own supporting the college.
In the resolution, the Bonneville County Democratic Party Central Committee said it supports Eastern Idaho Technical College transitioning to a community college because education is important to the community, and a well-educated population is the foundation of society.
Committee Chairwoman Miranda Marquit said they had a unanimous vote during their party meeting Tuesday. She said 13 committee members were present, and about 25 people were in attendance.
“The more education a population has, the healthier it is, the more likely you are to make more money, so it kind of gets you away from needing the government programs,” Marquit said. “There’s been research done that indicates that a more educated populace is more involved in local government(and) local community organizations.”
The resolution referenced the Community College Study Panel Report, which stated “nearly $66 million in additional economic activity would result from operation of the school and student spending. A full return on investment would occur after nine years.”
“The whole community benefits. We get increased economic activity in the area, which benefits everybody and we have a more educated work force,” Marquit said. “We have more skilled occupations and people are able to fill those skilled occupations.”
Marquit said the proposed College of Eastern Idaho could attract new businesses to the area with a workforce to support them.
“Education is never just education. Education brings with it so many benefits,” Marquit said. “It’s a very small investment that we as a county and as a community can make, but the return for everybody is great.”
“I think that education in the community should be a non-partisan issue.”
On April 13, the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee met together to pass a resolution opposing the creation of a community college district.
Larry Lyon, affiliated with the IdaHope PAC (Political Action Committee), said his group is opposed to having more taxes and that it could be a burden on locals. He added that the college could be used to push an additional agenda that veers from the school’s education mission. The College of Southern Idaho’s Refugee Center was used as an example.
“If I’m paying for government taxes for an educational institution, I expect them to be laser-focused on education and not distracted with anything else,” Lyon said.
Currently there isn’t a need for new infrastructure on the EITC campus. Five million dollars has been allocated by the Idaho State Legislature for startup costs, and local property taxes would increase by about $13.37 per year for the average homeowner in Bonneville County.
Marquit said the community will reap benefits greater than the tax increase. She said if people are willing to invest in education, they will see the benefits.
“To say that education is just education, (and) we can’t support any of the tangential benefits that come with it, I think is very short-sighted and misses out on the bigger picture,” Marquit said.
Marquit said the resolution wasn’t intended as a response to the Republicans’ resolution. She said it seemed like the thing to do to stake out their position and show their official commitment in support of a community college.
“It’s too bad they passed a resolution that doesn’t support additional education in the community, but that’s their central committee’s decision,” Marquit said. “I think that education in the community should be a non-partisan issue.”
Voters can choose to support or deny the proposed community college district on the May 16 election.
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com
Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com
Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com columnist