House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, opened her pitch for her grocery tax relief bill with this comment: “Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I wish I were governor and had Michael Ferguson working for me. He made a good presentation.”
Ferguson, Gov. Butch Otter’s chief economist, had made the pitch for Otter’s grocery tax relief bill, complete with pages and pages of background information, colorful examples, and ready answers to detailed financial questions that lawmakers posed to him. Ferguson said the governor’s bill would give a $90 grocery tax credit to low-income Idahoans. “Disregarding any other considerations, it would obviously be nice to offer the $90 … to everyone,” he said. But, he said, “This bill deals with the scarcity of financial resources.” Idaho doesn’t have enough money to do it all, he said. “This bill makes the judgment call that upper-income Idahoans prefer the budget stability that comes from this approach for funding state needs in education, public safety, etc. … This bill is targeted at Idaho’s working poor.”
Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, in pitching his own bill, to raise the credit to $50 for everyone and $70 for seniors at more than twice the cost of Otter’s plan, said his bill “benefits all Idaho residents across the board.” He said, “I would propose with a flat rate it inherently benefits those who have less, and therefore spend less, more.”
Rep. Phil Hart, who pitched HB 82 along with Rep. Jim Clark, noted that Kootenai County residents who are going to Spokane anyway often do their grocery shopping there, because Washington doesn’t tax groceries. “If we were to pass HB 82, those dollars would be spent in Idaho and not in Washington,” Hart said.
Jaquet, in support of her bill, said, “Everybody is saying, ‘Please remove the tax … please take it off for everybody. They want the effect at the cash register every day. … Nobody should be taxed on a life necessity.”