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Tuesday, November 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Idaho lawmakers introduce $202 million tax cut plan

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle R-Star, presents Gov. Butch Otter's tax-cut bill to the House Revenue & Taxation Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018; the panel voted to introduce the bill, clearing the way for a full hearing. Moyle said it's the biggest tax-cut bill he's seen in his years in the Legislature (Betsy Z Russell / SR)
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle R-Star, presents Gov. Butch Otter's tax-cut bill to the House Revenue & Taxation Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018; the panel voted to introduce the bill, clearing the way for a full hearing. Moyle said it's the biggest tax-cut bill he's seen in his years in the Legislature (Betsy Z Russell / SR)

Idaho legislators introduced Gov. Butch Otter’s $202 million tax cut plan Tuesday.

“Arguably, this bill is the biggest tax reduction bill we’ve seen in the years that I’ve been in the Idaho Legislature and maybe in Idaho history,” said House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star.

The bill would lower all personal and corporate income tax rates by 0.475 percent and creating an Idaho child tax credit of $130 per child.

The nine-page bill would conform Idaho’s income tax code to federal changes passed by Republicans and signed into law by President Trump. Those changes include the doubling of the standard deduction and tax rate cuts.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, who voted against introducing the bill, declared afterward, “I think it’s anti-child.” That’s because fully offsetting the loss of the dependent exemption would cost $287 per child, but the Idaho credit in the bill is set at $130 per child. Otter originally proposed a lower amount, $85 per child.

Elimination of the dependent exemption removes any break for larger families from the federal tax code. Congress addressed this by doubling the child tax credit to $2,000, but as of now, Idaho doesn’t have a child tax credit in its state income tax laws.

Idaho’s state income tax is based on the federal system – the state uses federal adjusted gross income as the starting point for state income tax return calculations. That’s why conforming to federal changes has such a big impact.

The bill conforms Idaho’s tax code to federal changes on standard deductions; personal and dependent exemptions; and itemized deductions, including new limits on the deductions of state and local taxes.

It also allows net operating losses to carry forward; medical expenses, which now become deductible when they hit 7.5 percent of income instead of the previous 10 percent; and the deduction for 529 education savings accounts, which the federal tax bill expanded to apply to K-12 education expenses.

Conforming Idaho’s tax code to the federal changes has a net effect on individual Idaho taxpayers of plus-$118.8 million, while it means Idaho businesses pay $21.4 million less in state taxes.

The bill’s changes offset that net conformity impact of $97.4 million with $144.5 million in cuts to Idaho individual income taxes; $15.5 million in cuts to Idaho corporate income taxes; and $42.3 million for the new Idaho child tax credit.

That adds up to a total of $202 million in tax cuts, and a net reduction in state general fund tax revenues, after the conformity changes, of $104.5 million.

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, questioned why the conformity issue and the tax cuts were put together in a single bill. “It just seems to me that this is a really big bill, built on some speculation for the next year,” he said.

Moyle responded, “I think it’s wise to do it at one time. But it also generates the income you’re going to need for this tax cut, the tax reduction going forward.”

Today’s committee vote clears the way for a full hearing in the committee. The measure should be assigned a bill number and appear on the Legislature’s website later today.

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