Eighteen senators and representatives gathered for a news conference today to press for repealing Idaho’s 6 percent sales tax on groceries – and announced that they’re up to 48 cosponsors for the bill, 16 in the Senate and 32 in the House. “We have the majority of each majority caucus as co-sponsors,” said Sen. Cliff Bayer, R-Meridian, including half of the House leadership. Bayer said the bill was delivered to House Rev & Tax Chairman Gary Collins’ office today, and the group is awaiting word on a hearing; Collins couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
“Thirty-seven states have already figured this out, including all of Idaho’s neighboring states with the exception of Utah,” Bayer said. He noted that when Idaho first enacted its grocery tax credit, which Idahoans claim on their state income tax returns to offset the sales tax they pay on food, it was seen as an “incremental” way of phasing out the tax; that credit has now grown to $100 or more per person per year. “That time has come,” Bayer said.
The bill would phase out the tax over two years, while eliminating the credit, which would cover the majority of the cost, bringing down the cost to the state general fund of $18.6 million in fiscal year 2018, and $26.1 million in fiscal year 2019.
Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, said, “This is about fair tax policy. This is about whether we should be taxing our families providing bread and milk for their children.” Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said he first ran for the Legislature in 2008. “I was in favor of repealing the grocery tax then,” he said. “We have to pay attention to people who are being left behind in this economy.”
Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said, “Any tax cut is stimulative. We’re putting more money in the citizens’ pockets, and they’ll be able to spend, not only on food, but on all other things.”
Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, said he prefers removing the grocery tax to the $52 million income tax cut that the House already passed, which hasn’t advanced in the Senate. “I did vote for the income tax cut, because I prefer the income tax cut to no tax cut whatsoever,” he said.
Twenty-six businesses or organizations, ranging from the Idaho Interfaith Roundtable Against Hunger to the Kootenai County Farmers Market, signed onto a statement in support of the bill.