Play tax-reformer: Idaho Legislature offers new interactive tool for online noodling

The Idaho Legislature’s performance auditors have produced what they call the first-ever guide to comparing business tax policies, along with another innovation: a web-based interactive tool for anyone who’d like to play around with adjusting tax rates.

Gov. Butch Otter, Tax Commission Chairman Rich Jackson and Commerce Director Jeff Sayer all welcomed the 41-page “Guide to Comparing Business Tax Policies” and interactive tax tool.

“I am committed to using sound, useful data to drive policy decisions,” wrote Otter in his official response to Office of Performance Evaluations Director Rakesh Mohan. “Your work identifying those factors which may rightly or wrongly be used to compare Idaho with other states should be useful as policy makers continue to address those tax policy issues which will provide the ‘most bang for the buck’ in facilitating new and expanding business in our state.”

The report was ordered in 2012 by the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee, which oversees OPE, after a request by the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee.

(The report and tool were unveiled last month, while I was on vacation, but I just experimented with the tool and I think many readers of this blog will find it easily as compelling as “Angry Birds.” Chairman Jackson shares my enthusiasm: “We are very encouraged by the new OPE Tax Policy Tool!” Jackson wrote Mohan.)

The report doesn’t make policy recommendations. Instead, it focuses on helping “legislators navigate through complex tax policy issues by asking the right kinds of questions early in policy considerations,” writes Mohan. “By asking the right questions, policymakers can enhance their ability to make tax changes that have positive effects and avoid decisions that lead to unintended consequences.”

Read OPE’s June 12 news release here.





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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