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Eye On Boise

Lawmakers debate tax goals, possible public hearings…

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, left, and Rep. Gary Collins, right, preside over the Idaho Legislature's Tax Working Group on Wednesday (Betsy Z. Russell)
Sen. Jeff Siddoway, left, and Rep. Gary Collins, right, preside over the Idaho Legislature's Tax Working Group on Wednesday (Betsy Z. Russell)

Members of the Legislature’s Tax Working Group have each submitted their suggestions on what they think needs fixing in the tax code, from simplification to lowering rates to protecting the balance between sales, income and property taxes that make up Idaho’s “three-legged stool” tax structure. Co-Chairman Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, said, “I’m getting really nervous about not having some public hearings on this. I have a great deal of respect for everyone on this committee, but I have to always look inward here – I’m just a dumb old sheepherder, and I don’t know everything there is to know about tax policy. And I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that have some really good ideas. … We’ve got to have enough time to invite folks in and present to this committee what they think are the things that need to be changed.”

Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, agreed. “If we’re looking at the possibility of tax relief, I would be interested in knowing what type of tax relief our average taxpayers would see as beneficial,” she said. “So do our average taxpayers think lowering our corporate income tax by a tenth of a percent is a benefit to them, after they just had an increase in their fuel taxes this year?” Earlier in today’s meeting, the lawmakers were told that lowering all corporate and income tax rates in Idaho by a tenth of a percent would cost $27.5 million to the state general fund. “I guess for me, that framework will always take in what we did last session, in terms of what we would look to do for possible tax relief moving forward,” Den Hartog said.

Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, said any tax changes should be aimed at enhancing the state’s economy, before looking at lowering rates. Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, said the impact of Idaho’s tax system on small businesses should be examined. In her district, she said, “I have more small businesses than large employers.”

Sen. Grant Burgyone, D-Boise, said, “I do think the people in that top income bracket have done pretty well in the sessions that I’ve been here, and the rest of the folks have not done so well. … Think about where those tax cuts have come in the past, and is that fair.”

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said, “I think public testimony is vital.” But he questioned whether small business people will speak out. “They have a very difficult time getting here,” he said. “A lot of times what we hear from are the big businesses and the big business groups, because they’re well organized and they have people.” Vick said he also wants to examine what’s worked in other states that have had economic success.

Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said Idaho’s urban communities are thriving, but rural communities are struggling to fund even the basics in their public schools. “We need to have a cohesive vision of what we want Idaho to look like in 10 years,” he said.

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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