The House Business Committee has voted unanimously in favor of HB 100, the Otter Administration’s “Idaho Opportunity Fund” bill, pitched by Otter’s state Commerce director, Jeff Sayer. The bill sets up the fund “to assist in securing commitments for the retention and expansion of existing businesses and recruitment of new businesses.” Though there’s no funding as yet, Gov. Butch Otter is recommending a one-time, $3 million transfer to the fund next year. The money would go directly to local governments for construction of water, sewer or utility improvements, flood mitigation or other infrastructure projects directly related to specific job creation or expansion projects.
Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation testified against the bill, decrying it as “crony capitalism” and “picking winners and losers” in the economy. Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, said, “Normally I would say I’m opposed to one company receiving a benefit over another, whether it brings in new jobs or not.” However, he said, “My understanding of this particular bill is that it’s for infrastructure, and that is more of a benefit directly to the communities to be able to create an environment for businesses to be successful. … In my opinion, this bill has been set up that it does provide the appropriate sideboards, so that we’re not giving specific companies benefits over others, and I will be voting in favor of this.”
The bill now moves to the full House.