It looked like they wouldn’t have time to get to the hearing on the new grocery tax relief bill today, but then House Rev & Tax Chairman Dennis Lake got a message. “The speaker sent word that he would hold the House at ease until we got it down there,” Lake said. “We appreciate that… We’re glad we got it done.”
A full hour after the House was supposed to go on the floor, the committee voted 12-5 in favor of the bill, which now moves to the full House. Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, said he would have preferred to take the sales tax off food, and he didn’t like how the bill excluded the very poor who receive a small amount of food stamps from the credit. But, he said, “I think we owe it to the people of Idaho to take some action and provide relief. … We can’t continue to ride a horse that won’t move.”
Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, opposed the measure. “I think this bill adds complexity to the tax code, and I think we should move in the direction of simplicity,” Hart said. “I think the people that need this the most aren’t really going to feel like they got much – they want to see the taxes off at the cash register.”
The bill, HB 588, raises the current $20 per year grocery tax credit to $50 for low-income Idahoans, and to $30 for most everyone else. It also calls for the credit to rise by $10 a year in subsequent years, economic conditions permitting, until it hits $100 for everyone. It also ends Idaho’s unique practice of excluding the poor from the credit entirely – under current law, those who make too little to be required to file an income tax return, $17,500 a year for a married couple filing jointly, aren’t eligible for the credit unless they're elderly, blind or disabled veterans. The bill fixes that. In the committee, those voting in favor of the bill were Reps. Collins, Moyle, Schaefer, Raybould, Roberts, Wood, Bedke, Sayler, Jaquet, Killen, Ruchti and Lake. Those voting against were Reps. Barrett, Smith, Clark, Harwood and Hart.