May 26, 2012 in Idaho

Dems control Idaho tax panel

GOP in minority following resignation
By The Spokesman-Review

BOISE – For the past three months, one of Republican Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s departments has been controlled by Democrats.

It’s the state Tax Commission, which is constitutionally required to have four commissioners, with not more than two of them from the same party. But since GOP commission Chairman Bob Geddes resigned in February, Democratic Commissioner David Langhorst has been the interim chairman, and the fourth commission seat remains vacant, giving Democrats a slight majority.

“David Langhorst is doing a great job right now,” said Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian.

The Idaho State Tax Commission is an executive agency of the state government, charged with administering and enforcing the state’s tax laws, including income, sales and property taxes. It has more than 450 employees. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and subject to Senate confirmation. They serve six-year terms.

Langhorst, a former Democratic state senator from Boise whom Otter first appointed to the commission in 2009, said, “I’m honored that the governor would pick someone from the other party to be the interim chair.”

He said that when Geddes left, Geddes encouraged Langhorst and GOP Commissioner Rich Jackson to make their cases to the governor on why they should be interim chairman. Langhorst focused on two goals – improving employee morale and improving public confidence – and got the nod.

Jackson had just joined the commission last July. The other commissioner is Democrat Tom Katsilometes, who’s served since 2005.

Before Geddes, the commission’s previous chairman, Royce Chigbrow, was embroiled in scandal, including accusations that he used his position to help a friend in a dispute with a former business partner. Chigbrow resigned.

Langhorst said he’s been working to make the agency’s operations more transparent, including opening up more of the rule-making process. “We’ve been working hard and making a lot of headway,” he said.

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