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Idaho Senate panel kills coinage

Treasurer won’t be managing state-minted silver medallions

BOISE – Idaho is unlikely to begin minting its own silver currency any time soon.

State Rep. Phil Hart’s proposal to create an official Idaho silver medallion that could be used to pay state taxes was killed Wednesday on a 7-2 vote in a Senate committee. The bill, HB 633, also would have granted big tax breaks to certain mining industry ventures.

Hart, R-Athol, called it a “safety net, if you will, for Idahoans who might want to put their savings or their money into a precious metal and protect that from inflation.” The official state silver medallions would have varied in value with the price of silver and would have been overseen by the state treasurer.

Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, noted that the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee has been rejecting all new tax breaks for specific industries. “Additionally, I can’t see any advantage of putting the treasurer in the commodities market.” Stegner said. “Asking them to start establishing a marketplace of exchange for this commodity or any other commodity … would not benefit the state of Idaho to any significant degree.”

Hart said after the vote, “I think they overlooked the constitutional requirement that the state of Idaho accept nothing but gold and silver coin for the payment of debts. This was an attempt to ease us into just that.”

While Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution does say, “No state shall … make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts,” the same section also says, “No state shall … coin money.” That power, under Article 1, Section 8, is given to Congress.

Among those testifying in favor of the bill was Ralph Holton, of Canyon County, who told the senators, “I think we need to start somewhere to moving toward having a backed money supply.”

State Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, who opposed the bill, said, “I can tell you that I’m an active trader in the commodities, I follow these on a daily basis, I invest in them heavily – and putting the Idaho treasury in the position of a commodities trader would not be a healthy situation for the state of Idaho.”