Rep. Lynn Luker's bill to end political contributions from the Idaho general fund to political parties in the state passed the House State Affairs Committee on a 16-1 vote, with Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, casting the lone dissenting vote.
The bill would end the practice of allowing individuals in Idaho to mark a check off box on state income tax returns, a move which could lead to as much as $35,000 in savings per year for the state. Unlike other contribution check off boxes on state income tax forms, the money for the political contribution check off box does not come from an individual's tax refund, but rather the funds are diverted from the state general fund to political parties. Individuals can use one of several political parties to send the money to, though typically the Democratic and Republican parties have been the greatest benefactors of the check off box.
In an earlier hearing on the bill, Luker, a Republican from Boise, testified that since its inception in 1976, the state of Idaho has lost approximately $1.6 million in general fund revenue. In that same hearing, some Democrats voiced opposition on the bill, believing the measure was simply a partisan piece of legislation (Democrats have been beating Republicans in check off box intake in recent years).
On Thursday, some Democrats sang a different song.
"I have the seen the wisdom of Rep. Luker's ways, and I will be voting yes on it," said Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise. In an interview with IdahoReporter.com, King identified herself as one of the representatives who had doubts about the motives behind the bill, but said she as she looked into it, she decided "money from the general fund isn't an appropriate way to fund campaigns."
Smith expressed dissatisfaction with the measure solely because it eliminates the check off box completely. "I think it’s important the political parties have a check off," said Smith. "I want one where it comes from the filer’s own refund."
During the hearing, King said she is in the process of crafting legislation that would allow contributions to come from individuals own tax refunds and will introduce her measure at a later date.
The bill will now move to the full House for consideration.
Click here to read IdahoReporter's first story on the Luker bill.