March 11, 2013 in Idaho

Scouts persuade House panel to back cookie tax break

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Russell photo

Senior Girl Scout Samantha Ward, a high school senior, testifies to the House Revenue & Taxation Committee on Monday
(Full-size photo)

BOISE – Girl Scouts from age 9 to adult appealed to an Idaho House committee on Monday to lift the state’s sales tax from their annual cookie sale, and they won over the House’s tax committee, which voted unanimously in favor of their bill.

HB 250, which now moves to the full House, still needs passage there and in the Senate and the governor’s signature to become law. It would remove Idaho’s distinction as one of only two states that taxes the annual Girl Scout cookie sale; Hawaii is the other one. Idaho’s 6 percent sales tax takes 22 cents from every $3.75 box of cookies.

Samantha Ward, a senior at Centennial High School who has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, told the panel how the program allowed her to go on a backpacking trip to Yosemite and a trip to Switzerland, where she met Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from all over the world. “I like to use my experiences to help girls go out and chase their dreams, no matter how big,” she told the committee.

Allison Jones, 13, an 8th grader, told the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, “Girl Scouts has taught me several useful skills through the cookie program. One out of many of them is reliable goals. … Every year in Girl Scouts, I have set my cookie goal higher, because I felt more confident with going out and talking to people. This year my cookie goal is 400 boxes.”

Connie Miller, board president of Silver Sage Girl Scouts and president and CEO of a local credit union, told the panel she grew up in a poor family. “I was nobody at school, I was bullied,” she said. “I found my place in girl scouting.” Her six siblings never finished high school, she said, “they all dropped out. But it was my senior Girl Scout leader who told me, ‘You are going to finish high school, you are going to go to college.’ It was such a tremendous impact on me.”

Ella Marcum, 9, told the legislators, “My first day I sold 100 boxes. I’m off to a good start.”

When committee members questioned why the Girl Scouts don’t just raise the price of a box of cookies to cover the tax, they said they’d sell fewer at a higher price – particularly for low-income girls, who could sell fewer to their friends and families.

Julie Hart, volunteer lobbyist for the Girl Scouts, told the panel that only 97 cents of each box of cookies sold actually goes for the cookies; the rest goes to Girl Scout programs that promote everything from scholarship, citizenship and business skills to staying off drugs. The cookie sale also provides scholarships to allow girls who otherwise couldn’t afford it to join Girl Scouts, participate and go to camp.

Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, said, “This is not a good organization – you guys are a great organization. I’m personally a results-oriented type person and you guys obviously get results – that is so critical today. I’m fully in support of everything you guys do.”

Anderst said with that said, he doesn’t think approving individual groups for tax breaks is a good way to set tax policy, though that’s Idaho’s current system. However, he said, that discussion is for the future, and “obviously not today.”


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