The Legislature’s ad hoc tax policy group, which met for the sixth time Wednesday, hasn’t quite decided what to do with all the information it’s been gathering.
The panel has a three-part mandate: help frame tax policy discussions ahead of the 2016 legislative session; determine what tax legislation the Legislature could take up; and outline what long-term tax issues the state needs to deal with.
On Wednesday, most members seemed more comfortable talking about the long term than the immediate future.
Panel members got a lot of numbers thrown at them Wednesday — different tax scenarios; breakdowns of income tax revenues by bracket; categories of sales tax exemptions; and practical and political concerns of a state Internet sales tax.
On that last score, Idaho, which now collects about $600,000 a year in sales tax from those who report Internet purchases, could see up to $50 million in such revenue with the right federal and state legislation. Lawmakers said any such windfall — if it ever comes — would be offset by tax relief in other areas.
But that’s getting a little ahead of things. To wrap up Wednesday’s session, Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, who co-chairs the panel with Rep. Gary Collins, R-Nampa, asked for consensus on what short-term tax ideas the panel could address. What came back was a list of usual suspects: focus first on cutting the income tax; invest in the state economy first, then talk tax cuts; look at helping existing business before trying to attract new ones; and look at what most benefits the average taxpayer.
Heard any of that before?
The committee took a five-minute pause to break it down. When it reconvened, members got their homework, which involved prioritizing a to-do list.
• Hold joint hearings of the House and Senate tax committees (tax legislation starts in the House and often never gets to the Senate for discussion).
• Consider revisions to business taxes on equipment and other property.
• Review income tax rates, focusing on possibly revising tax brackets.
• Review sales tax exemptions — they currently add up to about $2.1 billion a year.
Co-Chair Collins said he was comfortable, if not quite satisfied, with the direction the advice-only group was heading — “comfortable enough that I want to move forward on it.”
As for the panel’s policy differences? Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said at least the focus is on the big picture.
“Usually, special interests line up at the committee door with bills that they are asking for, and the policy gets set one bill at a time,” he said. “Regardless of what disagreements we have on what tax policy ought to be, we’re doing something quite different.”
The next session is Nov. 3.