BOISE – Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart has cited his status as a state legislator numerous times in seeking delays in his court fights over paying state and federal income taxes he owes, pointing to the state constitution’s clause protecting lawmakers from civil actions during sessions. Now he’s using it as an argument for dismissing a federal lawsuit to foreclose on his Athol home for back federal taxes.
In Hart’s reply to the federal lawsuit, in which the Department of Justice is seeking to foreclose on the home to pay off more than a half-million dollars in back taxes, interest and penalties, his attorney charged that the IRS claim is “barred” because a “notice of deficiency” was sent to Hart while the Legislature was in session.
The response claims the Idaho Constitution “bars Senators and representatives of Idaho from being served during the session of the legislature.”
He also offers other defenses, including that the IRS is wrong about his owing the taxes and that he was improperly denied legal deductions.
Hart stopped filing federal income tax returns for several years in the 1990s while he pressed an unsuccessful lawsuit charging the federal income tax is unconstitutional. Since then, he’s been filing and making payments, but federal and state officials say he still hasn’t fully paid up.
Hart has filed multiple appeals over a state Tax Commission order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest; the Idaho Supreme Court has tentatively set arguments in his latest state appeal for the first week of April.
Latest on surplus
Idaho lawmakers heard the latest state budget estimates Friday from legislative budget chief Cathy Holland-Smith, showing a projected ending balance at the end of the current fiscal year of $130 million. If fiscal 2013 sees 3 percent growth in tax revenues, that would provide enough to fund all services at current levels and leave $79.4 million left over for other purposes, such as restoring cuts, increasing state employee pay, refilling rainy-day accounts or cutting taxes. If state revenue grew by 4 percent, it’d be $105.4 million; at 5 percent, $131.4 million.
State chief economist Derek Santos, describing both the national and state economic outlook, said, “The bottom line is that both economies are expected to grow over the next 18 months, but the increases will be gradual.”
Board names replacement
Idaho’s state Board of Education has named Marilyn Whitney its new chief communications and legislative affairs officer, replacing Mark Browning, who left for a position as a vice president at North Idaho College. Whitney was formerly the statewide community outreach coordinator for the Idaho National Laboratory; she previously spent 15 years in corporate communications at Micron Technology and two years at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Mike Rush, state board executive director, said Whitney was selected from “a pool of highly qualified applicants.” She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boise State University; she’ll be paid $75,300 a year, the same salary Browning received.
Idaho’s Supreme Court justices were very energetic last week in their questioning of Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane over the discretion of the state’s redistricting commission. At one point, Justice Daniel Eismann asked Kane what the maximum number of counties is that could be divided between legislative districts. When Kane said there’s “no guidance” on that, Eismann questioned whether all 44 could be divided, or whether there’s some “magic number.”
“The court had some excellent questions,” Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said afterward. “It’s tough – they zeroed in on it. Is there a finite number of splits?” He noted that in addition to the issues raised in last week’s arguments, part of a challenge led by Twin Falls County, there’s a second redistricting challenge awaiting hearing on Jan. 19. “Being a lawyer, I found it interesting, some pretty good jousting going on,” Ysursa said. “I, of course, and the clerks are concerned about timing.” Idaho’s primary election is May 15, and candidate filing – in whatever the new districts may be – starts Feb. 27.
The justices said they’ll take the matter under advisement.
Different ‘I’ state …
Last week on David Letterman’s “Top 10” list, he featured the “Top 10 signs it might be time to end your presidential campaign.” Among them, at No. 5: “Instead of Iowa, you’ve been campaigning in Idaho.”
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