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Tax-cutters’ arguments out of sync with Otter

BOISE – As Idaho lawmakers closed their session this past week, there was a final “informational” hearing on HB 707, a measure to cut the state’s corporate and individual income tax rates by more than a third over the next 10 years.

Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, told the House Revenue and Taxation Committee that Idaho’s taxes are too high and said that’s why the state currently has such high unemployment. Hagedorn sponsored the tax-cutting bill with House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star; they also have a list of 29 co-sponsors, all Republican lawmakers, including three from the Senate and 26 from the House.

However, the state Tax Commission’s latest national comparison shows that Idaho’s overall tax burden ranks 46th nationally and 11th regionally out of 11 western states. That suggests the state’s taxes are comparatively low.

Interestingly, the bill’s backers are making an argument opposite to the one Gov. Butch Otter made in his recent “love letter” to Washington and Oregon businesses, urging them to move to Idaho: That Idaho has low taxes and is business-friendly.

At the end of the hearing, Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, asked for a motion to hold the bill in committee, and it passed on a voice vote, killing the bill for the session.

From bad to verse

As this year’s legislative session ground toward its end, Eye on Boise was pushed, as they say, from bad to verse. Here are some thoughts from the session’s final day that may rhyme more than they enlighten:

At 8 a.m., on SB 1347, a measure that passed the Senate and nearly went all the way to remove the burden of paying minimum wage to teens hired for the summer from the owner of an eastern Idaho attraction:

‘Yellowstone Bear World’

In these halls it’s thought of as sage

For lawmaking just to vent rage.

But some bills do more

With a lobbyist on board

You can pay less than minimum wage.

Then at 12:30, as debates continued to focus on messages and memorials to the federal government on states’ rights:

‘Idaho Legislators Show Feds Who’s Boss’

We’re so darn fed up with the feds

We’ll hit them right over their heads

With bills and with votes

Memorials and quotes

Hey voters, does that give us cred?

Then, at 2:40 p.m., after tough debate in the House against the $12 million Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or GARVEE, highway bonding bill for next year, on a straw that didn’t break the camel’s back:

‘Nevertheless, the GARVEE Bill Passed’

The evils of going in debt

Have many House members upset

We’re already in

For $681 million

But $12 million more on the bet?

Then, as lawmakers pressed into the evening toward adjournment, this final thought:

‘Nearly 9 p.m. and Still Going …’

When so many bills pass in one day

After long weeks held progress at bay

For right or for wrong

All that plodding along

What was the reason to stay?

A substitute senator

Temporary Sen. Darrell Kerby, R-Bonners Ferry, who filled in for the final weeks of the session for Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, while she was with her husband during his major heart surgery, reflected on his brief legislative experience. “It was an extreme honor for me to be asked to be here, but it wasn’t fun to participate in the dismantling of the programs that this state has taken years to build to assist the citizens and protect our friends and neighbors,” said Kerby, who participated in the joint budget committee’s deliberations as it set sharply reduced budgets for state agencies including schools.

“It was not a happy session; it was not something fun to do,” Kerby said. “It was about trying to do as little damage as possible, as opposed to being creative and looking for ways to help the state go forward.”

He added, “That said, I wouldn’t have turned down the opportunity. It was an honor to sit in that seat, especially Sen. Keough’s seat. She is so respected down here.”