Here we go again: local-option tax ideas

Is local-option taxing authority coming to a community near you? Stay tuned because the topic once again is gaining traction — though the tires pulling it might be getting bald.

Granted, this was not the Idaho Legislature dropping everything to push through a measure in support of local-option, but the drums were beating for the idea at a breakfast meeting of the Idaho Chamber Alliance Wednesday in Meridian.

Businesses seem to like the idea and there were plenty of them represented along with elected officials from Blackfoot to Boise and beyond. They heard a bit on the pros and cons of allowing cities and taxing authorities some autonomy to tax without the present legislative oversight. A few Idaho resort cities enjoy this freedom, but none of the larger metropolitan areas so far.

The four panel speakers commenting on the issue all have expertise and insight because of their taxing committee or leadership roles in either the Idaho Senate or House: Reps. Mike Moyle, R-Star, House Majority Leader, Grant Burgoyne, D-Ada, House Asst. Minority Leader; Sens. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, Local Government and Taxation and Elliot Werk, D-Boise, Senate Assistant Minority Leader.

Here’s the argument for: the Idaho Legislature seems to espouse local government and home rule on a number of issues, so why not allow local-option by taxing authorities? Local option would be good for business and economic development, right?

“People like government they can get their hands around,” said Burgoyne. “Local-option taxation is a right . . . a right to decide comes with a right to be wrong.”

If, for instance, Boise raised money with a local option sales tax and that ended up hurting their retail competitiveness, than “shame on us,” he said.

Moyle provided some pushback to the economic development incentive idea, pointing out that local option is another tax and that Treasure Valley consumers already are driving over to Ontario, Ore., to make purchases and avoid Idaho taxes.

“How can adding a tax help business?” Moyle said. “That doesn’t make sense.”

The Star farmer added that local communities already benefit from the alcohol tax, property tax, sales tax and other revenue sources. Maybe the problem, he said, is where and how quickly and responsibly they spend the money.

That said, Burgoyne believes there is a sweet spot of compromise on local-option and he is ready to try again. He talked to Moyle this morning about that very thing.

“Never say never,” said Moyle.

So, here we go, perhaps getting a taste of the legislative preseason in a year where everybody agrees that money is going to be “tight.”

Posted in Hello Idaho