March 8, 2010 in Idaho, News

Idaho courting tax-weary Washington companies

By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is suggesting Washington businesses come over to his side of the border if taxes go up like they have in Oregon.

In a “love letter to our neighbors,” Otter argues that Idaho has a better plan than other states for handling the recession: “Predictable tax and regulatory policies are what our employers need in order to maintain their operations through this rough patch.”

He jabs Oregon voters, who last month voted to raise income taxes on people making more than $125,000 and business taxes. After that passed, Oregon businesses started calling Idaho, he said.

“Legislators in the state of Washington are talking about even bigger tax increases to tackle a budget deficit that figures to be as big as Idaho’s entire state budget,” he says. “We are now reaching out to hundreds of Oregon businesses and will do the same with those in Washington if the Legislature there follows Oregon’s lead.”

Otter’s letter essentially echoes the warnings of fellow Republicans in Washington who opposed a package of sales and business tax increases this weekend in the state Senate. Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, called the proposals to raise sales, business and cigarette taxes the “Idaho Economic Development Act.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office refused to respond directly to Otter’s jabs at increased taxes in Washington, which Gregoire has called for as part of a balanced approach to solving a $2.8 billion budget shortfall.

Instead, Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren repeated the governor’s oft-repeated statement that Washington rates highly in Forbes Magazine and Pew Center lists of good places to do business.

“Our Department of Commerce is currently in discussions with several companies interested in locating or expanding in Washington state,” Shagren said.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said she wasn’t surprised that Otter might try that tactic to recruit businesses, but believes companies make their decision to relocate or expand on a wide range of factors, not just a tax increase.

If not, then businesses from California would be moving here because of that state’s budget problems, she said.

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