BOISE – Sweeping legislation to remove Idaho’s sales tax from groceries, lower top income tax rates and raise the gas tax went down to unanimous defeat in the Idaho Senate on Tuesday, just a day after passing the House.
“It appears that the majority of the Idaho Senate is not inclined to or will support the legislation,” Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, announced. “It will not be reconsidered this session.”
The Senate agreed unanimously to return the bill to the Senate Transportation Committee, which had sent it out to the full Senate just an hour earlier on a 7-2 vote with no recommendation. Davis said the move to kill the bill was designed to “shift the focus to other transportation solutions.”
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said after the committee vote that the overall question for the Senate is “do we want to see that type of tax policy” in a transportation-funding bill. The answer an hour later – after a closed-door GOP caucus – was no.
Two other House-passed bills still are pending to boost transportation funding in Idaho either by raising vehicle registration fees, or by shifting money from the state’s general fund, which pays for education, prisons, health and welfare programs and the rest of state government.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, a co-sponsor of the tax bill, HB 311, said, “I’m disappointed that they didn’t have a vote on the bill. There were good components in that bill and I think it was a well-balanced approach.” But, he said, “I’m optimistic we can still come to some mutually agreeable compromise, and look forward to working these problems out with the Senate.”
Idaho lawmakers had hoped to end this year’s legislative session last week, but continue to wrangle over transportation funding and taxes.