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Eye On Boise

Otter allows two bills to become law without his signature

Gov. Butch Otter has allowed two bills to become law without his signature: HB 75, which removes the sales tax from prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses; and HB 132, which would switch from a flat tax, with an annual decal, to a tax based on a gasoline-energy equivalent, raising $375,000 more for Idaho roads in the process.

On HB 75, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, and a bipartisan group of nine legislative co-sponsors, Otter wrote, “I support exempting eyeglasses, eyeglass components and contact lenses from Idaho’s 6 percent sales tax. These are the last medical devices subject to the state sales tax, and there is no justification for that to continue.” But he said he’s concerned about the fiscal impact - $1.4 million to the state general fund next year, when the tax comes off of glasses, and $2.8 million the following year, when contacts are added as well. He called that “a substantial bite from an apple on which more and more public interests rely for sustenance.” He urged caution and careful monitoring as the bill takes effect; you can read his full message here.

On HB 132, sponsored by Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, Otter wrote that more and more commercial fleets of trucks, buses and other vehicles are “turning to the cleaner-burning option of these gaseous fuels.” He said he agrees with the bill’s aim of levying Idaho’s fuel tax on the liquefied natural gas and compressed natural gas those vehicles use based on usage. But he said there are other issues with regard to those fuels that also need to be addressed, and said he doesn’t want to discourage their use. “I am concerned about the potential impact of even a marginal decline in the use of CNG or LNG vehicles in fast-growing Ada and Canyon counties, where more emissions from other vehicle fuels may aggravate air quality concerns,” Otter wrote. You can read his full message here.

So far this session, Otter has signed 156 bills into law, 34 of them on Monday; those Monday signings included several major budget bills, including the budgets for Medicaid, the Idaho State Police, and the office of the Attorney General. He’s let two bills become law without his signature, and vetoed just one, HB 126, on a change to the school funding formula, which he did on Monday. Otter hasn’t updated his bills-signed page since Monday, but he was gone yesterday for a “Capitol for a Day” event in Heyburn.

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.

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