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House kills 2/3 amendment for fee, tax increases or reduction of tax breaks

The House has voted 37-33 in favor of HJR 1, the proposed constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote of each house for any tax or fee increase, increase in any existing tax or fee, or removal or reduction in any existing tax break - which is not enough. The proposed constitutional amendment required a two-thirds vote in each house to go before voters at the next general election. In the House, that means it needed 47 votes.

"The good thing about this bill is that as a constitutional amendment, we're putting this to the public," said the measure's House sponsor, Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise. "We're putting this option to the public to say do you like this or not. ... This is a good opportunity for the public to comment on an important fiscal objective or policy."

House Tax Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, said he liked the idea of a two-thirds requirement for tax or fee hikes - but not the part about reducing or eliminating tax breaks. "We have, in this state, literally hundreds of exemptions and deductions that have been enacted for one reason or another ... that will be locked into place," Lake told the House. "They was all put there with a simple majority vote, and now we're going to take a 2/3 to remove them. ... Until that section of the bill is removed, I can't support it."

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, "I submit that Idaho has not done too badly controlling expenses and keeping ourselves in a relatively healthy fiscal state. I think that there could be an argument that an additional barrier does nothing except impair our ability to continue to manage successfully." He also said the measure, as written, appears to rule out the state's current procedures for fee increases by agency rule within statutorily set limits.

Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, questioned whether the 2/3 rule would apply to commodity commission fees, which are generated "not from the general taxpayers, but from the users of a particular product." Luker said it would.

Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said, "I always struggle with the 2/3 vote ... because I know that I like to operate on the premise that the majority should win, not the minority. ... If it takes 2/3 ... all I have to do is get 1/3 and one person, and I can stop it. So it seems like to me you're putting the power into the one third, more than the power into the two-thirds."

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Eye On Boise

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