The Idaho Legislature’s expected Friday adjournment hangs now on what the House and Senate do with major initiatives on transportation funding and taxes, two topics that appeared to move in opposite directions Wednesday.
The Senate Wednesday approved an amended tax bill that calls for repealing the state sales tax on grocery store food. That bill goes back to the House for an up-or-down vote to concur — initially, in a hearing before the House tax committee.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate rejected a $300 million bill for road construction and maintenance, citing objections to borrowing for the work against future federal road dollars. A similar but scaled-down bill, with the same funding scheme, is still pending before the Senate.
Roads across the state have been washed out, eroded and otherwise damaged by this winter’s harsh weather. In addition to state highways, lawmakers also have prioritized heavily congested Interstate 84 in Canyon County for replacement.
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Legislative leaders Wednesday vowed not to adjourn for the year without action on road funding.
“We will not leave here without addressing the road concerns in Canyon County,” House Speaker Scott Bedke said. “If we have to be here next week, that’s fine.”
To underscore the point, House lawmakers who represent Canyon County made a group appearance in the Capitol press room late Wednesday in a show of support. Lawmakers said they were working with Senate colleagues on possible amendments to the pending transportation bill.
Tax bill back to House
Idaho issues an annual grocery tax credit to offset the sales tax assessed on food. The Senate bill does away with both the credit and the tax, with a staggered implementation that delays the financial impact for one year.
The prospects for that bill in House are uncertain. House and Senate leaders opposed the grocery tax repeal and Gov. Butch Otter has all but promised a veto if the measure reaches his desk.
The repeal bill originated in the House as an income tax cut, but was rewritten in the Senate. The House does not have the option to revise the bill.
With two full legislative days remaining, Friday adjournment is still within reach.
“We’re still pushing hard for Friday,” Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis said as the Senate concluded its work Wednesday.