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Idaho House approves tax cut, but key senator remains uncommitted

By   /   February 4, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Photo: Reina Rodriguez/IdahoReporter.com

Idaho Sen. Jeff Siddoway, left, could block tax relief for Idahoans.

The Idaho House of Representatives passed a $28 million tax cut and an increase in the grocery tax credit Wednesday, but the plan might meet a roadblock in the state Senate.

The plan, sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, would cut taxes slightly on workers who earn more than $7,260 a year, giving them $22.8 million in collective relief.

The proposal also would expand the Idaho grocery tax credit by $10 for workers who make less than $7,260 a year. This provision would give $5.8 million more in grocery tax credits to those workers.

Moyle told colleagues the plan, which would also reduce the top tax rates for small businesses owned by individuals, will make the state more attractive for companies looking to relocate or expand.

Opponents criticized the plan as favoring the highest earners, while simultaneously starving government programs.

House members passed the plan 53-16, with Republican Reps. Maxine Bell of Jerome, Marc Gibbs of Grace and Paul Romrell of St. Anthony siding with all but one Democrat in opposition.

Rep. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello, was the only Democrat to vote for the bill.

But, as the measure now heads to the Idaho Senate for consideration, one legislator could impede its progress entirely.

Sen Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, remains noncommittal regarding tax relief during the 2016 legislative session. Siddoway intimated in an email to IdahoReporter.com this week that spending outranks tax relief on his to-do list.

“We will see how much we need,” Siddoway wrote Monday. “Then when we know that, we will know how much we can afford for relief.”

As chairman of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, Siddoway can decline to consider Moyle’s bill, or hold it until later in the session.

If he decides to block tax relief, it would be the second year in a row he took that route.

Last year, Siddoway used the promise of potential tax relief as leverage to increase starting teacher pay to $40,000 a year. Lawmakers acquiesced, and passed a career ladder plan to boost teacher salaries over a five-year period.

But there was no tax relief during the 2015 session. Instead, lawmakers passed a $95 million gas tax and registration fee hike to boost spending on roads.