BOISE – Idaho Lt. Gov. Jim Risch is standing by a controversial TV ad he aired in his successful primary race for a U.S. Senate seat and says he’ll run it again in the general election campaign.
“The ad said I delivered the largest tax cut in the history of the state of Idaho. I said it then, I mean it now, and you’re going to hear it again in the election,” Risch declared.
The widely criticized commercial focuses on the $260 million property tax reduction Risch engineered during his seven-month term as governor, when he called a special session of the Legislature. But it doesn’t mention the increase in Idaho’s sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent included in the same legislation, offsetting most of the tax cut.
“We cut taxes by over $200 million,” Risch says in the ad.
His Democratic opponent, Larry LaRocco, said, “It’s no way that it was the largest tax cut – it was a tax shift.” LaRocco calls Risch’s commercial “a lie.”
But Risch pointed to a LaRocco radio ad that began airing six months before the Risch TV ad that focused on the sales tax hike. “This guy did it six months earlier,” Risch said. “They only focused on one side. They focused on the side of the equation that was beneficial to them; I focused on the side of the equation that was beneficial to me.”
LaRocco’s ad said, “Risch promised to never support a tax increase. Risch then orchestrated a 20 percent sales tax increase.”
LaRocco responded, “I certainly don’t back down from anything I said, nor do I back down from my ad. He said he wouldn’t raise taxes, and he raised sales taxes on people across the board and working families.”
Risch maintains his ad is accurate because the sales tax increase took effect on Oct. 1, and was in effect for only three months in calendar year 2006. The property tax reduction, on the other hand, was retroactive to Jan. 1. So he says that in 2006, the year in which he was governor for seven months, the property tax cut totaled $260 million, but the sales tax hike brought in only $50 million to offset it.
“The net, the $210 million, is the largest tax cut in state history,” Risch said. “You cannot argue with those facts. I took $210 million off of the table in 2006. Anyone who tells you otherwise does not know what they’re talking about.”
In 2007, however, when the property tax reduction again trimmed $260 million, the sales tax increase raised $210 million. Risch said that still meant an overall $50 million tax cut, but acknowledged the effect of that is reduced because property taxes are deductible against federal income taxes. “It really turns out to be 30,” Risch said. “OK, I’ll give you $30 million. For every year after that, I left in people’s pockets $30 million, which is what, the third-largest tax cut in state history.”
He said, “We have a couple more issues that we’ll probably focus on more than that one, but I don’t want people to forget that, and we will put our message out there to remind people of what we did and that 72 percent of ’em voted for it.”
The Risch tax legislation also called for an advisory ballot question in November 2006 to ask voters if they agreed with the changes. It passed with 72.4 percent of the vote.
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