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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Idaho’s per-capita taxes among lowest in country

BOISE – Idaho’s tax burden per capita ranks 49th in the nation, according to the latest results from an annual study by the Idaho State Tax Commission. It’s the lowest among 11 Western states.

The study found that Idaho’s per-capita tax burden is $2,975, compared to the $4,296 national average and a $3,648 median among Western states.

Washington ranked 22nd in the nation, with a per-capita tax burden of $4,164. That was 3.1 percent below the national average but a whopping 40 percent higher than Idaho.

The study compared individual and corporate income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and motor vehicle taxes, including fuel taxes and license and registration fees. It focused on fiscal year 2011, the latest year for which census figures are available.

Idaho’s overall tax burden came in 30.7 percent below the national average. The state’s property taxes ranked 41st, at 39.3 percent below the national average; sales taxes were 38th, at 22.5 percent below average; individual income taxes, 33rd, 19.3 percent below average; and corporate income taxes 29th, 31 percent below average.

The study noted that Idaho’s per-capita income is relatively low – it ranks 50th, with only Mississippi coming in lower – so it also compared the state’s overall tax burden relative to income to other states. On that measure, Idaho came in 41st among the states, 13.5 percent below the national average, and again last among Western states.

Among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., the only states with tax burdens lower than Idaho were South Carolina and Alabama. Utah was 44th, Montana was 37th and Oregon was 31st.

Fulcher considering Otter challenge

Asked why he’s looking at a possible run for governor – against a popular two-term sitting governor from his own party – Idaho Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, said, “I just feel like we’re going down the wrong path.”

Fulcher, who filed paperwork last weekend allowing him to begin raising funds for a possible challenge to Gov. Butch Otter in the GOP primary, said, “It is not a firm decision at this point, but what it does allow us to do is take the exploratory steps over the next few weeks. … We’ll be talking to people across the state and evaluating whether or not it’s a good idea, and whether or not there appears to be some broad-based support.”

Fulcher cited the state health insurance exchange as his biggest difference with Otter. Otter pushed to establish the state exchange, rather than allowing the federal government to run Idaho’s exchange, while Fulcher opposed the move.

But he said the two have other differences as well. “I don’t think we’re on the same page with the lands issue,” he said. “I don’t think we’re on the same page, at least in terms of approach, with education.” But, he said, “Not all issues are created equal, OK? And this health care issue is a big, big deal.”

Fulcher said it’ll take him “several weeks” to determine whether to make the run. “To do it right, you have to interact with people all over the state, so we’ll be embarking on that here in short order,” he said. “My intent is not to try to throw Butch Otter personally in the crosshairs all the time. … I’m much more focused on trying to share an alternate vision and see if there’s receptiveness to it.”

In the Senate, where Fulcher is seen as a rising leader of the GOP’s most conservative wing, he’s been an opponent of granting anti-discrimination protections to gay people; sponsored successful legislation to make assisted suicide a felony; opposed legislation strengthening state day care licensing, calling it government intrusion; backed highway bonding plans that upgraded Interstate 84 in his district; and sponsored a 2007 law requiring parental consent for minors’ abortions.

Crapo in on budget talks

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo reports that he has been appointed to the conference committee that will work to reconcile the differences between House and Senate budget proposals. He’s one of 21 senators on the 29-member panel, which is headed by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“While I could not support the budget that was passed by the Senate earlier this year, I believe there are ideas and policies in both versions that we can mutually agree on and start the process of putting us on a sustainable fiscal path,” Crapo said.

The budget conference was agreed to as part of the deal to end the government shutdown and stave off default on the nation’s debt. Crapo voted against the deal, but called the budget conference “an enormous opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to find common ground on a more sustainable budget path for our country.” The panel includes the entire Senate Budget Committee, on which Crapo serves, along with four House Republicans and three House Democrats.

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