Despite silence and unanimous committee vote, IACI’s not playing dead on tax bill

Conventional wisdom after Tuesday morning’s unanimous vote for personal property tax relief  in the fast-tracked House Bill 315  holds that the battle between partial and all-out repeal is over.

“I think it’s greased,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston.

But the large businesses pressing the case that the tax on equipment and other non-real property stalls growth are unlikely to wave the white flag. While HB 315 looks likely to easily pass the House, it still must get through the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, the full Senate and receive Gov. Butch Otter’s signature.

Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry President Alex LaBeau, for seven years the driving force behind full repeal, was silent during the House Revenue and Taxation Committee’s hearing, as were other business stakeholders. But LaBeau will meet with IACI’s Legislative Committee later today and sounds unlikely to roll over because some see HB 315 at the “going-home bill” of 2013.

If the partial-repeal bill becomes law, pressure for all-out repeal will ease substantially, meaning seven years of work may have to begin anew.

Tuesday’s testimony on behalf of HB 315 all came from representatives of local government.

“I think it should be instructive for the public to see a committee only hear from government because they know what’s better for business,” said LaBeau after the vote. “We weren’t consulted on any of this. Maybe compromise is government standing around and staring at each other, but that’s not compromise with people who actually pay the tax.”

IACI wants $120 million in relief phased in by 2020. HB 315, backed by cities, counties and school districts, has $19 million in immediate relief. Both plans would replace lost local funds with state general fund revenue.

LaBeau has already run a report on the impact of HB 315, which was introduced Monday afternoon. HB 315 would exempt 47,470 businesses statewide by shielding the first $100,000 in value from taxation. But 5,756 businesses would still pay the tax, a group of the largest and most influential forces in Idaho.

So, in short, stay tuned.



Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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