Though the Idaho Capitol is already full of tax-wary Republicans, Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, wants to make it harder for lawmakers to increase taxes.
Vick introduced a bill in the House State Affairs Committee Thursday that would require 66 percent of legislators on the House and Senate floors to approve tax increases, a change from the simple majority now required for all bills, including tax hike measures.
The measure passed 15-3 along party lines, with all Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposed.
Vick told IdahoReporter.com he’s seen the idea in other states and thought it’d be a good fit for Idaho. “It just seemed like a good idea,” Vick said. “The primary motive is to control the growth of government.”
Some committee lawmakers expressed concern that the higher bar to approve tax hikes would mean the government couldn’t be as nimble and responsive if revenues slump. Vick isn’t buying that argument. “We still can (increase taxes), but we have to develop a broad consensus as to what taxes we’re going to raise,” Vick noted. “It just sets a higher standard.”
The north Idaho senator believes his bill could also prompt lawmakers to express more concern over reserve account levels when the state has extra revenue. With a higher bar for tax increases to get through the House and Senate, Vick says legislators would instead turn to reserves. “I think there’d be more concern about whether the rainy day funds are full,” Vick said.
In the past three years as revenues have slumped, lawmakers have already opted to spend down reserves instead of hiking taxes. Since 2009, the state has gone through more than $381 million in rainy day funds. Gov. Butch Otter has proposed putting $60 million into savings accounts next year, but some lawmakers believe the state should bolster program holes before filling reserves.
Vick’s bill will likely be heard in the next two weeks.