The public hearing on the four grocery tax relief bills has just concluded, and here’s the overall score: After the sponsors of the four bills spoke, seven people testified. Four of the seven spoke in favor of Gov. Butch Otter’s targeted tax credit proposal, HB 80. One preferred Rep. Wendy Jaquet’s proposal, HB 83, to remove half of the sales tax from groceries right away. Two others expressed no preference, but cautioned against causing instability in Idaho’s revenue system that could threaten funding for schools or other programs.
“I think this was probably one of the best hearings I’ve sat in in 11 years in the Rev & Tax Committee,” said Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, who sponsored one of the bills. “There was a lot of information. Everyone was treated with a fair hand. It’s going to give us some time to think about it, and we’ll come back in the morning and we’ll vote.” He added, “I still like mine.” Clark’s bill, HB 82, would take the sales tax off groceries in a four-year phase-out. “I just thought there had to be one option on the table to take it all off. So we’re in play,” he said.
Committee Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, said, “My sense is that HB 82 and 83 are probably too expensive for us to take that approach in solving the problem.” He and other Rev & Tax members said they’re well aware that any decision they make affects the state budget – and drives decisions on funding for crucial state programs. Tomorrow morning, committee members will be able to ask questions of Tax Commission experts and others on the numbers, and decide which way to go, he said.