The Senate has voted 25-10 for HB 661, a measure to repeal a never-used tax incentive bill enacted in 2005 to try to entice Albertson’s grocery store chain to keep its headquarters in Idaho. It didn’t. “Idaho’s a great place to do business,” said Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home. “We don’t have to give away the farm to get businesses to come to Idaho.” The bill, Corder said, is a “token effort from across the rotunda” to make a move toward repealing unneeded exemptions as the Legislature is in the midst of enacting massive new ones this year, including two designed to attract a French uranium enrichment firm and a huge tax break for businesses through repeal of the tax on business equipment. A more far-reaching review of exemptions, which was recommended by a joint interim committee, never happened.
Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said, “If it’s not costing us anything, I don’t know why we would want to repeal (it),” when the headquarters incentive might attract another corporate headquarters in the future. Sen. David Langhorst, D-Boise, said, “This is silly. … Is this the best we can do on attacking this system of exemptions, $1.6 billion that stay on the books year after year without review?” He called the bill a “cynical piece of theater.” Sen. Brad Little, R-Emmett, noted that he voted against the exemption in the first place, and opposes moves to “booger up the tax code” to accommodate a single company. Since the exemption’s never been used, the repeal bill has no effect on the state budget. HB 661 now goes to the governor.