A tax package that could bring the end of the 2015 legislative session cleared one of its remaining hurdles Tuesday, but a final rest remains.
The Senate Transportation Committee cleared the plan, which would end Idaho’s grocery tax, cut top income taxes from 7.4 percent to 6.7 percent and hike gas taxes by 7 cents a gallon, on a 7 to 2 vote.
The panel pushed the bill forward with no recommendation for the full Senate, a rare move. Most bills come out of committee with a “do pass” suggestion.
Bill sponsor Mike Moyle, the Republican House majority leader from Star, told committee members his plan would make Idaho more competitive for businesses and ease the tax burden on families.
Addressing concerns the income tax cuts would rob the state’s general fund of dollars for education, Moyle said the best way to find more money for students is to spur economic growth.
“You want more money for education?” Moyle asked. “Grow the stinking economy.”
Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman told committee members that while the bill isn’t perfect, it’s a good compromise to address the state’s needs.
“It would provide meaningful tax relief across Idaho,” Hoffman said.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, testified for the bill, another legislative rarity. He said the plan would help small businesses, which file taxes using individual schedules.
Idaho Public Employee Association President Donna Yule slammed the plan, saying it actually raises taxes for the middle class. She urged lawmakers to consider only the tax hike and leave the rest on the cutting room floor.
“We need to do something much bigger and bolder for transportation,” she urged.
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, motioned to pass the bill without recommendation, suggesting the whole Senate have the chance to decide the plan’s final fate. Winder didn’t feel comfortable deciding major tax issues in the Senate Transportation Committee.
He told reporters the vote could come as soon as this afternoon or tomorrow.
Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, hinted at changes to the plan in an interview with Idaho Public Television’s Melissa Davlin. He said that had leadership sent the bill to his panel, the Local Government and Taxation Committee, he wouldn’t have given it a hearing.
Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com.
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