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Lawmakers question tax commissioner nominee over marriage

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 6, 2018, 4:55 p.m.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, left, leaves the House chambers with House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, after delivering his State of the State address Jan. 11, 2016 at the state Capitol building in Boise. (Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press)
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, left, leaves the House chambers with House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, after delivering his State of the State address Jan. 11, 2016 at the state Capitol building in Boise. (Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press)

BOISE – Idaho lawmakers on Tuesday took turns grilling a newly appointed state tax commissioner over conflict of interest concerns surrounding her marriage to one of the Legislature’s most vocal tax cut proponents.

At issue is Gov. Butch Otter’s nomination of former Rep. Janet Moyle to an open seat on the Idaho State Tax Commission and her marriage to House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, a Republican from Star and a powerful legislative leader known for pushing tax law changes inside the Statehouse and who is currently backing one of the largest tax cut proposals in Idaho history.

“How are we supposed to know that he won’t have an inside track to information or influence that other legislators don’t have?” Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, a Rexburg Republican, asked during Tuesday’s confirmation hearing.

Janet Moyle countered that she spent 17 years protecting taxpayer information when she worked as a county tax appraiser, adding that she is a strong person and does not base her decisions on her husband’s opinions.

“This is a unique situation, but one that I hold near and dear to my heart because for the last 17 years I’ve been able to keep confidence,” she said. “I never crossed that line.”

All gubernatorial nominees must be confirmed by the Idaho Senate. They are rarely rejected. While it’s not unusual to face a barrage of questions from lawmakers during hearings, scrutiny over a nominee’s marriage is not typical.

For example, just hours before lawmaker’s quizzed Janet Moyle, a separate Senate panel directed zero questions to Melinda Smyser – Otter’s nominee to serve as director of the Idaho Department of Labor – regarding her marriage to influential longtime lobbyist Skip Smyser.

Meanwhile, during a nearly hour-long meeting, Janet Moyle faced questions from the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee regarding her marriage and none about how she would perform the duties of her position.

The Idaho State Tax Commission, part of the executive branch, is made up of four commissioners all appointed by the governor to six year terms. The commission is tasked with enforcing Idaho’s tax laws and educating the public on state tax structure.

“I share that concern about the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches, I think it’s very serious,” said Sen. Dan Johnson, a Lewiston Republican and committee chairman.

Moyle responded that she views her role as an administrator of the state statutes, while policy decisions are up to the legislators.

The Senate panel will vote on whether to recommend the full Senate confirm the nomination next week.


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