This is an excellent question and in my view hits at the point of what
are citizens willing to pay to support public and higher education and
other state services. A series of public opinion polls conducted by
BSU indicate that over 70 per cent of Idahoans are willing to support
a sales tax increase to support education and to improve educational
facilities. By far the most important priority facing us in the next
Legislative session is the funding of K-12 and Higher Education.
Constituents I talk to strongly support whatever means necessary to
assure the support of education at the current level of support or
even greater support. This is the position that I've consistently
I've consistently advocated the following fiscal measures to
a. Place a moratorium on the personal income tax cuts passed by the Legislature last year--
the state could realize a gain of more than $80 million/year.
b. Hire more tax auditors--the State Tax Commission estimates that
40,000 non-filers (Idaho citizens) fail to pay $90 million/year. One
tax auditor can bring in 7-8 times the amount of his/her salary and
benefits. Why should taxpayers be expected to subsidize non-filers.
Rep. Young and I proposed to hire 20 new tax auditors in the past
session and we lost the vote 48-19.
c. Develop a system and process to review all of the tax exemptions
currently in place in the state. I'm developing a bill to accomplish
this which I call "The Tax Exemption Accountability bill. Many
organizations granted a tax exemption consider this as their right as
time goes on, and there is no reporting back or accountability to the
Legislature to provide evidence of the benefit of the exemption to the
citizens of the state. We must remember that the an exemption is a
privilege and not a right granted to an organization or individuals.
A systematic review of all exemptions over a period of 3-5 years
should be set up on a permanent basis. Organizations who cannot
demonstrate a positive benefit to the state would lose their exemption
and this money would then flow back to the General Fund.
The same system should also be set so that Corporations and
Businesses who receive tax cuts are required to report back to the
Legislature demonstrating the positive or negative impact of the tax
cuts. The legislation would be called Business/Corporate
Responsibility and Accountability legislation.
d. Sin Tax Increase--A number of states have enacted increases in sin
taxes to help balance the budget. In Idaho the sales tax on beer has
not been increased since 1963 and on wine since 1971. Studies
indicate that tax increases on tobacco products reduces use and in the
long run saves the state millions in terms of reduced health costs. A
3 cent increase on a can of pop would generate about $15 million/year.
I believe the state needs to look at this as one option to balance the
e. Increase in the sales tax/use of service taxes--If all other means
fail to balance the budget I would support a combination of taxing
some services along with a one cent increase in the sales tax. I'd
especially support lowering the sales tax on food and prescriptions
because of the regressive nature of the tax on low income populations.