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Eye On Boise

Senate committee passes Risch tax bill

The Senate’s Tax Committee has voted 6-3 in favor of Gov. Jim Risch’s plan to cut property taxes and raise the sales tax, sending it to the full Senate for final passage. The committee’s vote came after a 90-minute hearing in the Gold Room, the state Capitol’s largest hearing room. Among those testifying at the public hearing was Barb Bode, president of the Idaho PTA.

“The Idaho PTA understands the need for property tax relief, but the Idaho PTA cannot support the governor’s bill,” Bode told the panel. “Right now it does not say, other than for this next year, that the monies from the sales tax … will be dedicated to educational funding.” Other education leaders told the panel that while they appreciated the bill’s $100 million savings account for education, they’d prefer not to lose the stability of property tax funding, and would rather see this year’s budget surplus spent to boost education instead of just to ensure its funding stays at the same level in the future.

Latah County Commissioner Paul Kimmel spoke in favor of the bill, on behalf of the Idaho Association of Counties. “We’re the ones in the trenches,” he said. “We sit as a board of equalization each June.” He added, “We also recognize the need to fund education – education drives our communities, it drives our economies.”

The senators on the panel had probing questions for many of those who testified – Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, a CPA, grilled state Tax Commissioner Dewey Hammond about the bill’s impacts on income tax deductibility.

When former state Sen. John Sandy, the governor’s chief of staff, told the panel that Idahoans support the governor’s plan, Sen. David Langhorst, D-Boise, responded, “We hear from different people. My e-mails are 15-to-1 against this.”

Senate Tax Chairman Hal Bunderson, R-Meridian, opposed the bill, but said he’d made a commitment to Senate leaders not to block the bill in his committee or individually stand in the way of getting it out to the full Senate for a vote. That’s where the bill is headed now.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.