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Eye On Boise

Senate tax chairman working on alternative to governor’s tax-cut bill

Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston
Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston

Here’s an article from the Lewiston Tribune:

By William L. Spence

BOISE - Idaho Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, is working on an alternative to the governor's $202 million tax cut bill that could actually provide more net tax relief for Idaho families.

Johnson declined to discuss details of the proposal, since the bill hasn't been introduced and the fiscal impact is still being calculated.

In general, though, the legislation uses the governor's bill as a template, but it changes the way the state conforms with the federal tax reforms and how income tax rates are handled.

"I take the governor's bill as a basis and make some adjustments," Johnson said. "I hope we at least have some debate about whether this (alternative) is a good idea."

The governor's tax plan, which has an estimated net cost of $104.5 million, sailed through the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Monday on a party-line vote (see related article, Page 1A).

The legislation is co-sponsored by almost the entire Republican leadership team, as well as 36 other House Republicans. That's enough to ensure passage in the House. However, the legislation would then come to the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, which Johnson heads.

All revenue bills must be introduced in the House tax committee. Consequently, if the governor's bill is approved by the full House, Johnson said it would be "reasonable to assume" that he won't schedule a hearing on it right away - not until his bill has an introductory hearing. He also could wait until the disposition of any other tax proposals - such as a grocery tax repeal bill - is clear.

Given the number of legislators lined up behind the governor's tax plan, Johnson isn't under any illusions that his alternative has an easy path forward.

Nevertheless, he believes there are long-term fiscal implications to the governor's approach to tax conformity, and that lawmakers should understand that before they decide which bill to approve.

"I think this information should be out there, so they can make an informed decision," he said.

The prospects for competing tax proposals also was raised during Monday's hearing on the governor's bill. For example, Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said there's room for more tax relief this session, beyond what the governor is proposing. He and others continue to advocate for repealing the 6 percent state sales tax on groceries.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, who co-sponsored the governor's tax plan, said he'd "just as soon" not see a competing tax bill. However, he thinks there's a reasonable likelihood a grocery tax repeal bill will still be introduced this year.

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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