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Kinderhaven Gets a Tax Break

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As SHS students watch a bill become law

March 27, 2002  

A couple hundred students with a sprinkling of school administrators; all three county commissioners; two legislative representatives; Sandpoint's mayor, Paul Graves; representatives from the press; and a stage full of board members and Angels from Kinderhaven filled the auditorium at Sandpoint High School this Tuesday to welcome Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne to the northern end of the state and watch four bills important to this area become law.

    "I'm glad to be here with all these Bulldogs," Kempthorne said to cheers from the students and then, sans notes, this people-pleasing politician went through an impressive list of the high school's academic and athletic championships attained this year.

    Kempthorne told those assembled "I am very impressed with the students we have in Idaho," and added, "I always want to encourage you to do your best - and to make sure no one's left behind."

    Before getting to the meat of the day's meeting, Kempthorne took time to explain some of the budget decisions made in this year's legislative session - in particular, decisions regarding education funding. "This year, revenues to the state have fallen off dramatically," he said. "The amount of revenue that has not come in is at least $200 million." Because of that, "We had to take some measures," and, "this year's appropriation to public schools is not as big as I had hoped." Kempthorne was careful not to mention the word "holdback," and instead told the students present that the public school system in Idaho, "Only got a $2.7 million increase."

    After saying that, "Next year, most state agencies will be cut eight to ten percent, he made a point of mentioning funds that were tapped to support general fund dollars for education - the tobacco fund, the capitol restoration fund, and the so-called "rainy day fund," which, in total, shifted  approximately $66.8 million into the general fund. "This demonstrates our priority is you young folks, so you get the education you need. A lot of Idahoans are hurting - these are tough times," he added. "A lot of people are tightening their belts. Well, the government is tightening its belt, too."

    "I love hitting the road," Kempthorne said. "When you can participate with your constituents, in this case, students, that's cool."

    The "bad" news of austere budgets out of the way, Kempthorne moved right into the legislation he was there to sign.

    The first was the "Promise Scholarships," which offer a $400 scholarship for each of two years to students graduating with a 3.0 GPA.

    Secondly was Technology and Learning Monies - a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide technology training and equipment for school administrators. In return for a state share of $150,000, the Foundation will provide $1.5 million to Idaho over a two-year period.

    Kempthorne also presented an anti-hazing law which extends current anti-hazing laws for colleges and universities to the elementary and secondary levels.

    And then it was Kinderhaven's turn. Kinderhaven, which recently won a "Brightest Star Award" from the Governor earlier this year, is now an eligible entity for tax credits - donations made to Kinderhaven now count as a credit on an Idaho tax payer's income tax bill. "This is a good bill," said Representative George Eskridge, who sponsored the legislation along with his fellow North Idaho legislators Representative John Campbell, who was present for the signing, and Senator Shawn Keough, who was working and unable to attend the ceremony.

    "Kinderhaven," Governor Kempthorne stated, "is one of the truly great programs in the state of Idaho."

    Kempthorne invited a group of SHS students who serve as Pages at the Capitol to stand with him when he signed the Promise Scholarship bill and the numerous Kinderhaven representatives present joined him around the table for the signing of their bill. But Kempthorne delighted his audience when he stepped off the stage to go sit amongst students in the gymnasium (see picture in our masthead on the front page) to sign the anti-hazing bill.

    Before leaving, Kempthorne ended his presentation on a positive note. "Even in this (nationwide) recession, only two states have shown even a 1% growth in jobs. One is Florida, and one is Idaho. We will come out of this recession," he promised, "(and) all of you here have the brightest future. I encourage you to realize the center of your universe is Idaho. This is your touchstone. This is a state where we care about each other."


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Landon Otis

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