Both chambers of the Idaho Legislature approved increasing tax breaks on donations to public and private schools, museums, and several state agencies that earlier this year were facing phaseouts of state funding. The Senate approved the targeted income tax credits Thursday, sending them to Gov. Butch Otter, who sponsored the legislation in the House and Senate.
Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said the plan would help agencies and organizations facing difficult economic times by encouraging donations. “It’s a way to give them a little ray of hope in a pretty dark, dismal sky that we are facing right now,” he said. “Without this … all these organizations are going to have less money than they otherwise would.” The legislation increases tax credits for donors to public and private schools and universities, Idaho Public Television, libraries, and museums. It would also add tax credits on donations to the Idaho Commission of Hispanic Affairs, the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Idaho State Independent Living Council, and the Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. In January, the governor recommended that state funding for those agencies be phased out. The tax credits wouldn’t go into effect until next year, so they wouldn’t affect the budgets being set by lawmakers.
One of the five no votes on the tax credits was Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise. He said the cost to the general fund, estimated to be $5 million a year during a four-year span, will need to be accounted for eventually. “We will have to pay the piper eventually for the cost of the bill,” he said. Werk added that some people already pay more than the current limit of $100 for single-filing taxpayers and $200 for joint filers, and would receive an added tax credit without increasing their donations.