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Rev & Tax votes unanimously to introduce GS cookie bill, but will it get a hearing?

The vote was unanimous this morning in the House Revenue & Taxation Committee to introduce the bill to exempt Girl Scout cookies from Idaho’s 6 percent sales tax. “It is a pleasure to introduce this,” Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, the bill’s lead sponsor, told the committee.

Julie Hart, the volunteer lobbyist for the Girl Scouts, told the panel that 48 other states recognize the cookie sale as worthy of a sales tax exemption. “Idaho scouts sell roughly $2.5 million of cookies every year,” she said. “That translates to roughly $140,000 in tax revenue for the state of Idaho,” without the exemption. She said, “In this unequal system where the status quo asks you to pick winners and losers, we ask you for an opportunity to provide you a cost-benefit analysis through a full public hearing. We understand the state is counting pennies this year, but believe that if 48 other states have exempted the program, the state of Idaho ought to provide the scouts an opportunity to present the merits of their case.”

Rep. Neil Anderson, R-Blackfoot, questioned if the benefit from a tax exemption would go to cookie buyers, rather than to the Girl Scouts; Hart said no. “The Girl Scouts charge $3.75 for a box of cookies,” she said, with 22 cents of that going to the state for sales tax. “What the Girl Scouts would be doing would be keeping the price point at $3.75 … and if the exemption occurs, instead of turning it over to the state, they would be keeping the 22 cents.”

Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, asked if the Girl Scouts are a 501c3 charity; Hart said they are. With no further discussion, Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, moved to introduce the bill, and the committee unanimously agreed.

Whether the bill goes to the next step – a full public hearing – is up to the committee chairman, Rep. Gary Collins, R-Nampa. “I’m still weighing that,” he said this afternoon. “We’ll talk about it some more with my committee. … We’ll kind of go from there and see.”

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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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