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Eye On Boise

Debate: ‘Much at stake,’ ‘Not a real tax cut’…

From the Senate debate so far on HB 463, the tax-cut bill:

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said, “There is much at stake when we reduce our revenue by this level.” She noted that Idaho is still restoring programs cut during the recession, from infrastructure to education. “Our per-pupil expenditure consistently remains at the bottom or near the bottom,” she said. “This has been true for decades and continues even in good economic times. … It is imperative for our economic growth that we have highly skilled workers ready to step into those positions businesses so desperately need. … I hear over and over from business leaders their top priority is education and a highly skilled workforce. … If we really believe education is our highest priority, this bill is ill-conceived.”

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, cited figures from the state Tax Commission. “A single mother of three making $35,000 a year will pay roughly $140 more dollars in taxes,” he said. “In short, this bill gives families a tax increase, except those at the very bottom, who don’t get much, and those at the very top, who get a lot more. … Most people get very little or practically nothing. Other people at the top do very well.” Burgoyne said, “If you were given $100 million for tax cuts, would you give any Idahoan a tax increase? Well, I wouldn’t.” He said, “It’s not a real tax cut if it has tax increases on families with children.”

When Burgoyne referred to last year’s Senate move to convert an income-tax cut bill into a grocery-tax repeal bill, Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, objected that the debate wasn’t relevant. Nearly half the Senate then gathered in a big huddle and consulted rule books for several minutes, including Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, who is presiding over this morning’s debate.

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said, “I’m a little bit like the senator from 34, I find tax policy fascinating. To me, it’s riveting.” He said studies show when corporations get tax cuts, their employee benefit. “Labor gets a huge percentage, actually the lion’s share,” Rice told the Senate. “We have to focus on all of the impacts on all of the people in the state.” Rice said tax changes ripple through the economy. “We’re too high, our rates are too high. Revenues are lower and grow at a slower rate right now because our rates are too high,” he said, "and rates don’t equal revenues.”

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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