House members roll out transportation and tax package

House members roll out transportation and tax package

by
Dustin Hurst
March 25, 2015
Dustin Hurst
Author Image
March 25, 2015

To kick off a busy day in the Idaho Capitol, three Republican legislators pitched bills to cut some taxes, raise others and put more cash toward roads and bridges.

The bills, two introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee and one in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, will likely serve as key measures to help legislators end their work in Boise for the year.

The largest and most complicated bill, brought by House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, would raise gas taxes 7 cents a gallon, end Idaho’s tax on groceries and drop income taxes for top brackets. The plan would also provide $5 million in one-time money for roads.

This is at least the third bill designed to raise funds for roads. Two other measures didn’t clear committee, while the other sits on the House calendar awaiting action.

Moyle’s plan would drop income taxes for higher earners from 7.4 percent to 6.7 percent. That’s more aggressive than Gov. Butch Otter’s plan, which called for a 0.1 reduction in income taxes this year.

The bill also ends the grocery tax rebate program, which refunds taxes Idahoans pay for groceries.

In 2016, Moyle’s bill would be an overall $15 million tax hike, but in following years tax reductions would be “significant,” the majority leader said.

Moyle’s bill would raise $42 million for roads in 2016 and $65 million in 2017.

The majority leader said his plan would achieve several goals set forth before lawmakers began work in January.

“We were trying to find that balancing act where we could accomplish as many of those goals as possible,” Moyle said. “It was a balancing act.”

Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, brought his own road-funding bill in Ways and Means, pitching a proposal to send a portion of excess general fund dollars to road repair. If tax revenues grow more than 4 percent in a given year, Monks’ plan would shift one-third of the money designated for the budget reserve account over to roads.

The Monks bill would also move Idaho State Police funding from gas taxes and onto the general fund. That move would free up $16 million in gas money.

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, opposed Monks’ bill because it would take cash from the general fund.

“I can’t support this bill,” Rusche said.

Finally, Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, proposed a modest hike to car and motorcycle registration costs.

Palmer’s proposal, which would raise $20 million annually, would hike car registration fees by $15. Motorcycles would see a $6 increase.

The measure would also add a yearly $150 fee to electric car registrations, plus another $100 a year for hybrid cars.

The three measures will hit committees in the next few days as lawmakers try to end their session by April 3. The Revenue and Taxation Committee will likely hear Moyle’s bill, while the House Transportation and Defense Committee should hear the other two measures.

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