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Idaho needs to invest $5.2 million for a major computer upgrade in its tax collection system, state tax officials say, and it'll pay off big not far down the road. The upgrade, which state tax commissioners plan to pitch to lawmakers in January, could pay for itself within its first full year of operation, officials estimate, by allowing the state to better pursue fraudulent returns and tax lien debt.
The proposal comes as the state's four-member Tax Commission has been working to boost public confidence and employee morale, two years after a former director resigned amid scandal and charges that the commission was cutting secret deals with influential taxpayers. Current Chairman David Langhorst, a Democrat, said the commission is working toward “a more open and transparent way of doing business, and better communication within our own ranks.” The Tax Commission assessed its status and outlook at its annual meeting today; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Ken Roberts, a farmer and former school board member from Donnelly, says he's “willing to dig in and learn” as a new full-time state tax commissioner. He'll be one of four members of the Tax Commission; the others are former state Sen. David Langhorst, D-Boise, the current acting chairman; CPA Rich Jackson, a Republican; and former Bannock County Commissioner Tom Katsilometes, a Democrat. By law the commission must be bipartisan. Tax commissioners must work full-time, and are paid $87,156 a year.
“I look forward to the new challenges in the Tax Commission, learning that job, and really seeing tax policy from an implementation side instead of a policy side,” Roberts said. “And seeing where I can offer assistance to maybe make some changes. … I think I have a good perspective from which to jump into that job. I've seen tax policy for 12 years in the tax committee in the legislative branch, and now this is a little bit different hat to wear, and I'm looking forward to the challenge.”
Roberts was one of the sponsors of the 2006 law proposed in a special session by then-Gov. Jim Risch to shift school funding off the property tax and onto state sales taxes, a move that many today blame for the recent years' unprecedented cuts in school funding. Roberts stands by the change. “It was the right thing to do, because it took what was an automatic escalator of property values and taxes that were being paid and it more defined people's property taxes based on the budget system that they have today, vs. something that was based on market values,” he said. “And that provides stability on people's property taxes.”
He added, “We've got to remember that the taxpayers, the property taxpayers were paying that bill, and it was without regard of their ability to pay the tax.”
Roberts, who is completing his sixth term in the House, has had a difficult year; his wife, Mary Jo, drowned in the Payette River in 2011, and he faced tough legislative fights during the session on such issues as a bill to help Boise County cope with a crippling financial judgment; a rift in House leadership led to unsuccessful efforts to defeat him in the primary in May.
Said Roberts, “You know, I just, I feel really honored and blessed to be given the opportunity to continue to serve the citizens of the state in a little different capacity. … It's going to be an adventure. I'm looking forward to it.”
When current House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, leaves the House and instead becomes a state tax commissioner on Monday, he'll leave behind what's shaping up to be a battle for leadership in the House GOP caucus. Late yesterday, Roberts acknowledged that he had planned to run against current House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, for the No. 2 position in House leadership, up from his current No. 4 post; Moyle worked unsuccessfully to defeat Roberts in the May GOP primary.
“I know that it's a fluid situation, and there's been a lot of phone calls made even today about who's going to run for what,” Roberts told Eye on Boise. “I have great confidence the House majority caucus will elect individuals to leadership that they can trust.” Asked what he meant by the “trust” comment, Roberts said, “You can take it at face value.”
House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who funneled leadership PAC funds into a series of interconnected PACS that then tried to defeat several GOP incumbents in the primary, including Roberts, is facing a likely challenge from the majority's No. 3 leader, Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. “I'm going to leave that alone,” Roberts said. “The new caucus members that'll be elected in November, I'll let them make that decision.” He said, “There's four elective leadership jobs that come up every two years. I'm sure there will be some people that will run that have not run before, and I think there'll be some people that will run that have run before. A lot of things will happen and change between now and the first week in December.” That's when the Legislature will convene its organizational session and the new leaders will be chosen.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has named state Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, to the Idaho State Tax Commission, a full-time post; Roberts is currently the House majority caucus chairman. Roberts will resign from the House and begin his new job on Monday.
Roberts will fill out the unexpired term of former Commission Chairman Royce Chigbrow, who later was replaced by former Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes; the term is up April 1, 2013. Otter said, “I chose him from a very talented and qualified group of candidates. I could not have gone wrong by selecting any of them.” Roberts said, “I am looking forward to the challenge and to continuing to serve the citizens of Idaho in this new capacity.”
The appointment will have ripple effects in the pending House majority leadership battle, where Roberts was expected to make a bid to move up, possibly challenging Majority Leader Mike Moyle, who worked unsuccessfully to defeat Roberts in the May GOP primary. Click below for Otter's full announcement.
An important sideshow to the race for House speaker is the contest for the No. 2 post, held by Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, who may have a challenge from the No. 4 House GOP leader, Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts of Donnelly. I was in Sun Valley Monday for the annual meeting of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. A morning session with the IACI board featured all eight GOP leaders from House and Senate, along with House Minority Leader John Rusche of Lewiston and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Stennett of Ketchum. The seating arrangement was telling. Three-term Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, sat with Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, six seats away from his challenger, House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Do you care you leads the House and the Senate in the 2013 Idaho Legislature?
House Speaker Lawerence Denney, left, and Majority Leader Mike Moyle, ceenter, have contributed to a political action committee seeking to unseat six fellow Republicans, including Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts. right. Groundwork is being done by at least four interconnected PACs led by Lou Esposito, Denney’s appointee to the first 2011 redistricting commission. Esposito operates Spartac, a political consulting firm. He also is coordinating with a fifth PAC, Idaho Chooses Life, led by his friend David Ripley. Idaho Chooses Life is targeting some of the same candidates as Esposito’s PACs. The PACs are sending direct mail, identifying voters and turning out the vote. Last week, a flier from the Free Enterprise PAC blasted Roberts — the No. 4 Republican in the House — for supporting fuel-tax increases in 2009 and for this year’s failed bill to allow Boise County commissioners to raise property taxes to pay a legal judgment without a vote of the people. A subsequent bill that became law requires a popular vote and is on the May 15 ballot, as are the legislators/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Popcorn, anyone?
The holiday weekend was marred by sad news for state Rep. Ken Roberts of Donnelly, whose wife, Mary Jo, drowned in the Payette River; her body was recovered Saturday about six miles downstream from McCall. Mrs. Roberts, 49, was the subject of a search along the river starting Friday, after she went missing after reportedly going for her usual morning walk before work along the river, which is raging with high flow; her vehicle and belongings were found near a bridge in McCall. KTVB has a full report here; funeral services are pending under the direction of Heikkila Funeral Chapel in McCall/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
The holiday weekend was marred by sad news for state Rep. Ken Roberts of Donnelly, whose wife, Mary Jo, drowned in the Payette River; her body was recovered Saturday about six miles downstream from McCall. Mrs. Roberts, 49, was the subject of a search along the river starting Friday, after she went missing after reportedly going for her usual morning walk before work along the river, which is raging with high flow; her vehicle and belongings were found near a bridge in McCall. KTVB has a full report here; funeral services are pending under the direction of Heikkila Funeral Chapel in McCall. Ken Roberts, 47, is the Idaho House Republican Caucus chairman and a former 1st District congressional candidate.
Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, didn’t win his race last night for leadership, challenging House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, but Nonini said this morning, “I was glad I put my hat in the ring. I think our caucus deserved choices.” He said he was proud of Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, for running as well; Bayer unsuccessfully challenged House Majority Leader Mike Moyle. Nonini said he thought having choices was “good for the system”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Should Nonini be kept as chairman of the House Education Committee?
Lawmakers from around the state, including some newly elected, rolled on buses into the Silver Valley this morning as part of the North Idaho legislative tour, after hearing a presentation from Lt. Gov. Brad Little about the work of the governor’s transportation funding task force. Last night, the legislators held party caucuses, which included an announcement at the House GOP caucus from Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, that he’s running for majority caucus chairman, challenging current Chairman Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly. If Nonini won that spot - elections will happen at the early-December organizational session - he’d have to give up the chairmanship of the House Education Committee/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Would you like to see Nonini become GOP caucus chairman?
Idaho state Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, who’s running for the 1st District congressional seat, has gotten off to a rather slow start in his campaign, lagging far behind fellow GOP hopeful Vaughn Ward in fundraising eight months out from the primary election. As of the last campaign finance report, Roberts had raised $62,021 and had $41,661 in cash in his campaign war chest; Ward, an Iraq war veteran, had raised $245,877 and had $178,533 cash on hand. Now comes the news that Roberts has lost his campaign manager, former GOP legislative candidate Kevin McGowan. McGowan sent out this email today:
“On October 23rd, I told Ken Roberts that I would be resigning as Campaign Manager from the Ken Roberts for Congress campaign. I said that I would support him until he was ready to manage the campaign without me. Ken accepted my resignation on November 5th but I wanted to make a formal announcement of that resignation so that questions and calls about the campaign can be properly addressed. All questions about the Ken Roberts for Congress campaign should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or the campaign website www.robertsforidaho.com. I wish the campaign the best of luck in the future and I thank those who were helpful.