As Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer prepares to depart for a new career destination, he leaves behind a quote that we hope resonates all over Idaho and especially in the Legislature.
“We do need lower taxes some day, and not today,” Sayer said two weeks ago, as reported by the Statesman’s Bill Dentzer. “The return for the state is not in lowering taxes. It’s investing in talent.”
Sayer made the comment to a group of legislators who were considering tax reform measures. The guy who directed the state’s economic development and who has seen almost every tax cut incentive idea under the sun, concluded that creating jobs, and attracting and retaining talent, should trump cutting taxes to drive the state’s economy.
As the Idaho Legislature’s joint Tax Working Group gets back together again today Wednesday, we hope the membership takes Sayer’s words to heart.
Yes, the state has had success with the Idaho Tax Reimbursement Incentive program, which can result in a tax credit of up to 30 percent on income, payroll and sales taxes (for up to 15 years) for qualifying companies that create jobs.
Yes, we know another election year is right around the corner and tax cuts get people re-elected — but there is simply more at stake than that.
Yes, an Idaho Department of Labor study projects 109,000 new jobs statewide in the next 10 years. But our problem in Idaho is that most of the 108,000 new residents expected are retirees. Only 14,000 newcomers are expected to be “working-age adults.” That leaves the state with 95,000 jobs to fill.
Idaho has an overabundance of unskilled labor — and the accompanying low-paying jobs. What we need is to redouble our efforts to train a workforce that lures new companies because the skilled workers these small businesses and corporations need are here and ready to go.
That is why higher academic standards in high school and higher college attendance rates are so important. But so is the retraining of the existing workforce. We need more opportunities like BoiseCodeWorks, which trains students on the fundamentals of software development — a skill that is always in short supply in the Treasure Valley.
We need more high-tech “incubators” and paths to develop the “talent” Sayer speaks of when looking to the future. We need people who can recognize sooner, rather than later, that established companies might move here because of the lifestyle and cost-of-living advantages — and, as the Statesman’s Rocky Barker has written, because we can be a sort of Noah’s Ark setting where businesses can better cope with the effects of climate change.
We have people who can be trained. We offer an amazing lifestyle. Lets not put all of our asset apples in the tax cut basket.
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