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Eye On Boise

House passes grocery tax repeal on 51-19 vote

The House has voted 51-19 in favor of HB 67a, the bill to remove Idaho’s 6 percent sales tax on groceries.

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, spoke out in favor of the bill. “I think it’s immoral. I think it’s wrong to tax people on their food,” he said. Crane said 70 percent of Idahoans favor repealing the grocery tax. “I think it’s time that we put more money back in their pockets. … I’ve been here for 11 years. … It’s my belief that it’s time to give these folks meaningful tax relief on their groceries. … The time has come to give the people their money back, to quit taxing our citizens on their groceries, their basic needs.”

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, spoke against the bill, which he called “very bad tax policy.” He said he doesn’t think the fiscal note is correct, and thinks it would cost the general fund $80 million a year. “Where’s that going to come out of? … Eighty million dollar hit to the general fund has to come from somewhere,” Wood said. He said it could come out of education, higher ed, corrections, Health & Welfare, and even transportation. Wood said people have been telling lawmakers this year, “We’re not interested in tax reduction – we have more pressing needs.” That includes fixing Idaho’s transportation infrastructure that’s suffered damage during this year’s extreme winter weather, he said.

The 19 “no” votes came from Reps. Anderson, Bedke, Bell, Gannon, Gibbs, Jordan, Kauffman, King, Malek, Manwaring, McCrostie, Miller, Perry, Raybould, Rubel(Green), Toone, VanOrden, Wintrow and Wood. All other representatives voted “yes.”

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, spoke against HB 67a. “This is a tough vote for both sides of the aisle,” Gannon said. Gannon said there are Democrats who say the bill will help low-income Idahoans. “The problem I have is I cannot vote to implement policies that I have complained about for 20 years that go on in Washington, D.C. I can’t make our state move in the same direction as Washington, D.C. and have Washington, D.C. on the Boise River. I have to vote for fiscal responsibility.” He said the state already is contemplated going into debt to fund transportation improvements, and he plans to vote in favor of that.

Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, said, “I would just be in favor of this bill. I think we’ve been on a spending spree down here. I think this has a really good visual.”

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, said, “For six years I have tried to take a step in this direction. … We shouldn’t be taxing people for the very sustenance that they require to live. We shouldn’t be putting our border communities at a disadvantage.” He said, “I think this is a good bill. It’s time to do this.”

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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