If Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, has his way, Idahoans could soon be able to pay their taxes with silver medallions produced in the state of Idaho.
Hart said the bill serves several purposes, including creating jobs in Idaho, as well as giving citizens in the state a way to store wealth in what he believes is a more stable form of currency. Hart said that though the U.S. Constitution dictates that the government should use nothing but gold or silver for public currency, the federal government has essentially left that provision "in the rear view mirror." The bill would give the state treasurer the ability to work with silver processing companies to develop a state medallion that the state would then be forced to accept as payment for taxes.
That, Hart believes, could bring hundreds, if not thousands of job to the state. In conjunction with the creation of the medallion, Hart's bill would also try to lure silver processing companies to Idaho, and in particular, north Idaho, which, according to Hart, was once called "the silver capital of the world." The bill would give companies that come to Idaho to process silver for the medallion a 10-year exemption from income taxes, as well as property taxes. The exemption would be open for 20 years and would sunset after that period of time.
The bill could also serve a third purpose that would be beneficial to the environment in the Kellogg area. Hart said that 14 years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put highly toxic material left over from the Bunker Hill Mine in what he called a large "plastic baggy." The material inside is a silver-like substance that Hart says could be used in producing the medallion, which has an estimated worth of $200 million. The state owns that material and needs to deal with it soon because there is concern that the "baggy" is beginning to corrode and wear thin, which, if it happens, would negatively affect the water table of the area.
The coin would not have a face value determined by the state, however, because Hart believes that would violate the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits states from coining money. The price of the coin would alternatively be determined by market prices, though the value would also be pegged to the American Eagle Medallion.
Several in the audience voiced support of the bill, including former Boise City Council candidate Lucas Baumbach, who urged lawmakers to avoid inflationary policies that, he believes, could turn the U.S. into the Weimar Republic, a government formed in Germany following World War I. The republic was plagued with several problems, including hyperinflation. Baumbach told lawmakers that he doesn't want to see the U.S. take a step backward in living standards, which would result from hyperinflation. Baumbach also called on lawmakers to diversify the state's workforce.
"I don’t think mining jobs are a step backwards," said Baumbach. "Not everyone can work at Micron, not everyone can work at Hewlett-Packard."
Rep. Russ Matthews, supported Hart's legislation as a way to build the economy.
"This is, in my opinion, true economic stimulation," said Matthews.
The bill now moves on to the House for a vote.
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