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Idaho House members debate state food tax repeal, settle on lesser measure

State of Idaho
Idaho's food tax is part of the tax relief discussion, but there's no consensus on what should be done

Democrats side with Republicans with whom they rarely agree

Idaho’s House of Representatives on Thursday approved an increase in the state’s grocery tax credit. But they first went through the exercise of debating whether they should go further and scrap the state’s 6% tax on food.

The proposal, sponsored in the House by Rep. Jim Addis [R-Coeur d'Alene], would add $20 a year to the state grocery tax credit that's available to Idaho residents.

“Right now, with where we are, it’s simply an attempt to help get more money back to our taxpayers. We’ve done it in income tax. This is an attempt for food tax. And I certainly hope we have other ways to get money back to taxpaying Idahoans," he said.

Addis was referring to the recent passage of a bill that will provide Idaho residents with one-time income tax rebate checks later this year. The governor recently signed it into law.

With regard to the grocery tax credit, if approved, the change would go into effect next year. Residents would apply for the extra cash on their 2024 state tax returns.

During floor debate, Rep. Ron Nate [R-Rexburg] argued that, given the current inflation rate, that amount of tax relief and the timing is inadequate. He proposed tabling the bill so it could be amended to repeal the tax. But he ran into opposition from members of his own party. Rep. Jason Monks [R-Meridian] said Nate was hijacking Addis' bill and said, for that reason alone, he would vote against Nate's amendment. The proposal was voted down 41-26.

Debate resumed on the tax rebate bill, with opponents arguing a vote for it would take away the chance for a more robust grocery tax reform discussion.

“There will be a talking point that goes out that says we addressed grocery taxes this year. We increased the grocery tax credit. Nothing to worry about here anymore, folks," said Rep. Ilana Rubel [D-Boise].

She said the little bit of money that residents would receive with the credit would be a pittance compared to what they'd receive if the state reduces or repeals the grocery tax.

“In this instance, I would urge you to hold to your guns and push for something real," she said.

That argument wasn’t persuasive enough, though. Rubel joined 26 others, including Republican legislators with whom they rarely agree on anything, in fighting the increased credit, but they were outvoted, 40-27.

The grocery tax credit bill now moves to the Senate.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.