While it may already be tough to get a tax hike through the Idaho Capitol, lawmakers tried Thursday to make it even more difficult to do so.
The measure, which would have proposed a constitutional amendment requiring the Legislature get a two-thirds vote to approve tax or fee increases, failed to clear that threshold itself. Representatives voted 37-32 on the measure, not clearing the 47-vote minimum needed to ask a constitutional question.
Had the measure passed the House and Senate, voters would have decided its final fate at the polls in November.
Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, told colleagues on the floor that the two-thirds requirement would help keep Idaho’s fiscal affairs in line. Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, questioned Luker on the premise, saying that the idea would give more power to a small minority in the Capitol.
Luker wouldn’t back away from that idea. “That’s the whole point of it,” he explained.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, voiced disdain for the plan, saying that Idaho’s fiscal house is mostly in order. “I would submit Idaho has not done too badly controlling expenses,” Rusche argued.
Rep. Grant Burgyone, D-Boise, picked up on Perry’s line of reasoning, arguing that the measure would give a small group of legislators too much power in deciding tax matters. “One-third plus one will rule all on these issues,” he said. “I don’t think we need to go to this length.”
Instead of enacting the stringent requirement, Burgoyne argued that legislators should rely on voters at the polls choosing their representatives to decide what policies are acceptable. “We’re putting handcuffs on ourselves and I’m not sure why we’re doing that,” Burgoyne said, adding that each November, voters have the opportunity “to put handcuffs on us and haul us away.”
The measure was originally proposed by Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, who felt the measure would control the growth of government, but would also ensure that proper attention is paid to filling state reserve funding accounts.
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