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Sayer readies corporate welfare package for counties

Sayer readies corporate welfare package for counties

Dustin Hurst
March 18, 2015
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March 18, 2015

Big business handouts aren’t just for the state anymore.

Well, they won’t be if Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer has his way in the Idaho Legislature as the session winds down in Boise.

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee introduced legislation that would allow counties to abate or exempt property taxes for businesses investing at least $500,000 in property or equipment.

Sayer’s plan is a the second of its kind. The director introduced a modified version of the proposal earlier this year, but Sayer said stakeholders felt the threshold for giving tax breaks was too high.

The old bill required companies to invest more than $3 million in urban counties and $500,000 in smaller counties to qualify. In the new plan, all businesses would be subject to the $500,000 threshold, though the state would give counties the power to choose a higher figure.

“That, by itself, was too restrictive,” Sayer said. “We feel like this is a good, flexible approach.”

The new plan also eases notification requirements. Sayer’s prior bill called for a three-day written and phone notice before commissioners approve a handout, but the new plan only mandates an electronic message be sent to affected taxing districts.

The new plan also opens the handout to any “non-retail” commercial project, whereas the old bill only allowed tax breaks for manufacturing companies.

This is Sayer’s second tax break program to come through the Legislature in the past few years. Last year, the director successfully championed a tax rebate incentive program in the Capitol, which allows his agency to rebate taxes to big companies meeting certain conditions.

Sayer boasted of the program’s achievements during several hearings this year, telling legislators the state’s rebate program will bring Idaho hundreds of new jobs and millions in new payroll and investments.

The committee will hear the bill in the next week or two. Lawmakers aim to wrap up the 2015 session by the end of the month.

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