Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 52° Partly Cloudy

Eye On Boise

Senate tax panel deeply divided over House-passed tax cut bill…

The nine-member Senate committee that will take up the tax-cut bill tomorrow morning is deeply divided, reports AP reporter John Miller, and its chairman, Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, prefers to see the $35 million in question go into state rainy-day savings. Corder says the House-passed bill provides a family of four earning $100,000 with just $71 in tax relief — not enough to really make a difference. "My vote is 'No,' " Corder told the AP. "That's where I am, truly and squarely."

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, favors the bill, while Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, opposes it. "What's the conservative and prudent thing to do? It's to save money," he said. Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene, is on the fence but leaning toward supporting the bill to attract companies looking to move to the state. "I want to put every dime I can into savings," Hammond said. "But I also appreciate, as we start climbing out of the hole in the economy, one of the things we can do is create a better first impression."

Hill said, "We don't know if it's going to come out of committee." Click below for Miller's full report.

2012's final question: Will Otter get tax relief?
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Senate panel is due Thursday to help decide the 2012 Legislature's last critical question: Will Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter win his coveted $35 million tax relief bill, or will more-cautious lawmakers direct at least some of that cash toward savings, to be used if the economy sours again.

The Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee has agreed to an 8 a.m. hearing on Otter's bill, which passed the House but languished for weeks in the Senate.

In the world according to Otter, Idaho's economic turn-of-fortune has left it flush enough to direct about $35 million over five years toward teacher salaries, $35 million toward rainy-day savings — and give $35 million back to taxpayers.

In the world according to Sen. Tim Corder, the economic downturn is barely a thing of the past, so Idaho would be wiser to put the money in reserve accounts that helped save the state during the darkest days of the Great Recession.

Corder, R-Mountain Home, chairs the nine-member Senate committee, where he'll oppose Otter's plan, in part because it provides a family of four earning $100,000 with just $71 in tax relief — not enough to really make a difference, he says.

"My vote is 'No,' " Corder told The Associated Press. "That's where I am, truly and squarely."

In his State of the State speech in January, Otter said he wanted tax relief. His druthers, he told reporters, was to cut income tax rates.

As Otter's newly appointed Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer said last month, Idaho must freshen up its "window dressing" — to create the best first impression possible for scouts hired by companies looking for attractive places to relocate.

To start, Otter decided the best pep-up would be cutting top individual income tax and corporate tax rates to 7.4 percent, down from 7.8 percent for individuals and 7.6 percent for corporations

House Speaker Lawerence Denney said Wednesday the session will be done this week, if the Senate goes along.

"If they can do it, we can do it," said Denney, R-Midvale.

And if it doesn't?

"I'm guessing we're going to be here another couple of weeks." said Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene.

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill led a 1 ½ hour, closed-door Republican Senate caucus meeting Wednesday. The merits of savings vs. tax cuts dominated debate.

Hill, who also sits on Corder's tax committee, hopes to see Otter's bill advance. Still, Hill made it clear in an interview — and to the Republican governor — that he's not twisting arms.

"We don't know if it's going to come out of committee," Hill said.

On the other side of the debate stands Sen. Jeff Siddoway, another of Corder's committee compatriots.

The eastern Idaho rancher fears Idaho's economy could get blindsided by high gasoline prices this summer, potentially tilting a nascent recovery back into recession.

"What's the conservative and prudent thing to do?" Siddoway, R-Terreton, asks, then answers, "It's to save money."

On the fence — but leaning toward supporting the tax cut — is Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene.

Hammond buys the idea Idaho's tax rates are too high to catch the fickle eye of companies looking for a fertile place to relocate or expand.

"I want to put every dime I can into savings," Hammond said. "But I also appreciate, as we start climbing out of the hole in the economy, one of the things we can do is create a better first impression."

It's clear the governor is active on the measure. Over lunch Tuesday in the Capitol, Otter swung by Hammond's table — to urge him to get behind the relief.

Otter also chatted with Sen. Dan Johnson, another committee member, last Friday.

Johnson, a first-year GOP senator from Lewiston, is a considered a key swing vote on the measure, and he wasn't giving any clues Wednesday which side he'll choose.

"I'm undecided," Johnson said. "There are merits to the arguments of both sides."


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

Follow Betsy online: