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Otter signs jobs bill; lauds bipartisan effort

Gov. Butch Otter speaks Wednesday as he signs HB 297a, the
Gov. Butch Otter speaks Wednesday as he signs HB 297a, the "Hire One Act" tax credit bill for new jobs, into law; at left is Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell; at right, Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star. (Betsy Russell)

Gov. Butch Otter has signed HB 297a into law, his "Hire One Act" to give a tax credit to employers who make new hires. "This was a bipartisan effort, and for as much of the things that we had disagreement on, we had a lot of agreement on this," Otter declared. Among those joining him as he signed the bill were GOP floor sponsors Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell; and Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star; Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, who said, "I think it enjoyed very broad bipartisan support - the need is obvious ... Hopefuly this bill can make a difference;" Chamber of Commerce representatives; and Reps. Julie Ellsworth and Mitch Toryanski, Boise Boise Republicans who were among the bill's co-sponsors, and both targets of a recall effort launched yesterday over their votes on school reform legislation; neither Ellsworth nor Toryanski spoke during the bill-signing.

McGee said when he and Otter campaigned together last fall, "Across the state of Idaho, one thing that kept coming up over and over was jobs - and this legislation directly takes on that issue and improves the situation. I think it's going to be very successful."

Otter said, "I don't think as long as you've got one person in the state of Idaho of work we're doing enough. We're doing what we can. We're doing what we believe. We know it's going to cost the state a little over $7.5 million, but we think the result of that is going to be about a $25 million income to the state," as those newly employed workers pay taxes.

Under the bill, for-profit Idaho employers who make new hires on or after April 15 - this Friday - would be eligible for a tax credit if the jobs include health benefits and pay at least $12 an hour in counties where employment is above 10 percent, or $15 an hour in counties where it's below 10 percent. The amount of the credit would vary from 2 to 6 percent of the new worker's gross wages, based on the employer's rating in the state unemployment insurance program; that's to ensure that employers who laid off workers during the recession and are just now hiring them back aren't rewarded as much as those who kept their workers on, and now are expanding.

The refundable tax credit expires on Jan. 1, 2014. Otter said Idaho could have done more to promote job-creation. But, he said, "What we were looking for was something that was either revenue-positive or revenue-neutral, and this is what we came up with." He said he's confident the "Hire One Act" will come out "revenue-positive" for the state.

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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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