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Another approach to exemptions…

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, has drafted legislation calling for setting up a state commission that would review all Idaho state sales tax exemptions one or more times every eight years, and report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature, including whether each one should be scrapped or kept. The commission would include legislators, a member of the state Tax Commission, and citizens, and is modeled after a similar commission in Utah; you can read a full report on the bill by reporter Ben Botkin in The Twin Falls Times-News here.

Though repeated efforts by legislative panels to review and identify unneeded exemptions have failed, Jaquet said, "They would look at it more judiciously, and they would provide a report to the governor and the Legislature when they would have some time to reason things out." However, Jaquet said House Rev & Tax Chairman Dennis Lake has told her her bill won't get a print hearing unless she can get support in advance from a majority his committee. So far, Jaquet said, she's got "seven to nine" of the 10 backers she needs, at least to back introducing the bill.

Lake, R-Blackfoot, said, "You know, on the surface it seems just like a wonderful idea, but you've got to remember we reviewed exemptions in 2003, in 2008, and you know what happened in that interim committee. I prepared 14 pieces of legislation, we prioritized all the exemptions, and I brought 14 pieces of legislation to examine them. And essentially, the answer from the committee was, 'No, we don't want to look at 'em.'" Though Jaquet's bill would have an outside group do the review, it'd still be lawmakers who'd decide whether or not to repeal exemptions, Lake said. "I think it's an exercise in futility, because exactly the same people that are acting on them now would be acting on them then," he said.

Lake said with Idaho's evolving economy, "I've said for years, eventually we will be taxing services. Is now the time? We may be getting there, but it won't be this year."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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