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Eye On Boise

‘Doing the right thing: Priceless’

There was quite the interesting exchange in the Senate today between Sens. Brent Hill and Dean Cameron - the Senate's tax and finance chairmen, respectively - over the twice-amended HB 64, the IRS conformity bill for 2008. It earlier passed the House overwhelmingly, then the Senate amended it to take out a clause that would cost the state $2 million, to match up Idaho’s state income tax code to a one-year change Congress imposed last year to grant a tax deduction to non-itemizers to offset part of their property taxes. Then, the Senate amended that back in, and today, the re-amended bill - now identical to what the House earlier passed - passed the Senate, 24-10.

"I'm ashamed to bring this bill to you today, not because it's a bad bill, but because it's today - 42 days before over a million Idahoans have to file their tax returns," Hill, a CPA, told the Senate. He said he awoke at 3:30 this morning "feeling guilty" ... "This body allowed it to be jerked around and in and out of the 14th order. ... I apologize to you as well as my fellow citizens of this state." Hill said people who already filed their Idaho income tax returns for 2008 may have to amend them, and tax preparers have "piles of files in their offices, waiting for us to act today. ... It's time to quit delaying and start delivering, to replace indecision with decisiveness," he declared.

Cameron countered, "I, too, woke up at 3:30 in the morning, but for a lot of different reasons - namely our budget crisis." The budget committee chairman said he's been awake in the wee hours for weeks, trying to figure out the way out of Idaho's budget crunch. "I understand the benefits of conformity," he said. "What I also understand is that we're making significant reductions in every state agency, including public education - we will make significant reductions in every state agency including public education in 2010, and then, in 2011, if there's not enough money, we'll be faced with raising taxes."  He warned, "We may be giving away money here that we may regret down the road."

Hill responded that in his view, failing to conform Idaho's tax code to the federal break constituted increasing taxes. "Cost to the state: $2 million," he said. "Savings to the taxpayers: $2 million. Doing the right thing: Priceless." Four Democrats and six Republicans joined the dissenters, but the re-amended bill passed.

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Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.