Tax cuts on aisle four
March 10, 2017
By Idaho Representative Ron Nate
When you hit the neighborhood grocery store for
your weekly shopping trip for eggs, milk, bread,
fruits, and other staples, you pay the cost of
the groceries plus an additional six percent for
the state sales tax going to the state general
The grocery tax brings in about $187 million for
the state budget.
Last week, Senator Cliff Bayer presented his
plan to exempt all groceries from the sales tax
while eliminating the grocery income tax credit.
The proposal would provide immediate tax relief
to every Idahoan.
It would reduce revenue coming into the state
budget, but would also reduce the "payouts" from
the budget toward the grocery tax credit.
On net, the bill would diminish revenues by
$18.6 million in 2018 (half a fiscal year), and
$26.1 in 2019. This means Idahoans would have
that many millions more to spend on other
things. Also, there would be more economic
activity from increased grocery sales in Idaho
and other increases from Idahoans who have more
money left to spend in other parts of the
Senator Bayer's proposal has broad support. It's
not very often a piece of legislation in the
Capitol has more than 10 co-sponsors. So, when
this tax cut plan comes out with 48 co-sponsors,
it raises eyebrows.
I am proud to be a co-sponsor.
In a legislature with 105 legislators, 48
co-sponsors is a strong signal. To be a
co-sponsor is more than just a commitment to
vote for the bill; most legislators see
co-sponsorship as tantamount to carrying the
bill themselves. There are no doubt many others
who would vote for the bill even though they are
The bill is a slam dunk, right?
Well, not quite. One of the hallmarks of the
2017 legislative session is the debate over
committee chairs holding onto bills and not
scheduling hearings. The grocery tax bill is one
of those bills.
Despite its amazing support, the chair of the
House Revenue and Taxation Committee has so far
declined to set a hearing for the bill.
With the huge budget surplus this year,
estimated at nearly $140 million, tax cuts
should be the legislature's first instinct.
However, money to spend on more or bigger
government programs also looks good to some
moderate and liberal legislators.
Unfortunately, it appears some of our
legislative leaders are among the legislators
who are more interested in spending than cutting
taxes this session.
Personally, I have no doubt the bill would sail
through committees and through both chambers if
it were allowed hearings and floor votes.
Hopefully the bill will be scheduled soon.
Idahoans deserve tax cuts after so much
overspending the past few years.
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