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Political check off box morphs, reappears before House panel

Political check off box morphs, reappears before House panel

Dustin Hurst
February 10, 2010
Dustin Hurst
Author Image
February 10, 2010

The political check off box that allows Idaho citizens to donate to state political parties on their tax forms could reappear, though the process would be slightly morphed.

The House State Affairs Committee originally made news when it voted to removed the check off boxes from tax forms on Jan. 21.  Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, argued the system was flawed  it diverted money from the general fund to political parties.  Under the previous system of designation, citizens would check a box to choose a party, which would take $1 from the general fund and send it to the specified party.  Luker estimated that the state lost $35,000 a year in the process.  The repeal of the old process was approved by the both the House and Senate by wide margins.

Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow citizens to continue using tax forms to donate to parties, but the money would come from a different source: the individual citizen.  Under King's plan, Idahoans could choose to donate to political parties, but that contribution would either be subtracted from their refunds or it would be added to their tax burden.  Unlike the other check off boxes, the new proposal would allow donors to contribute varied amounts, up to $49.99.  King said she wants to keep the donations under $50 to eliminate the need for extra examination or scrutiny by state tax officials.

The bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, said the check off boxes "allow smaller donors to feel they have a say in the political process."

Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, expressed reservations about the intermingling of government and campaigns.  "I have concerns about the state government being a quasi-fundraiser for political parties," said Simpson.  He added that technological advances make it possible for donors to contribute any desired amount to parties without burdening the state.

The committee voted to introduce the legislation on a 17-1 vote. with Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, casting the sole vote against the measure.  In an interview with IdahoReporter.com, Palmer said he shares Simpson's concerns about the state mixing politics and campaigns, and was also skeptical about the bill's ability to pass the House.

"I don't think it has enough votes to get out of committee, much less the House," said Palmer.  Following the hearing, Palmer said, via his Twitter feed,  the bill "would waste the Legislature's time and the people's money!"

The bill will receive further consideration in upcoming weeks.  Read IdahoReporter.com's story about the original removal of the check off box here.

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