Hailey flood meeting

Governor C. L. Butch Otter addresses community members Saturday during a flood meeting at Blaine County School District Community Campus in Hailey.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS

Most Idahoans oppose Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's veto of a bill repealing the state's sales tax on groceries, according to a recent poll.

The poll also found a majority of Republicans support Otter's veto, while Democrats were most strongly in favor of getting rid of the tax. It also found more support for repealing the tax among self-described liberals than conservatives — people who described themselves as "somewhat conservative" were almost evenly divided on Otter's actions.

While that result may seem counter-intuitive at first — generally speaking, Republicans and conservatives are more likely to favor tax cuts than Democrats and liberals — that actually lines up well with the political divides over the issue. Repealing the sales tax on food has been an issue pushed by the further-right wing of the state GOP for years — and people who described themselves to the pollsters as "very conservative" were pretty strongly against the veto. It's also an issue which some Democrats embraced as something that would provide more tax relief to lower-income Idahoans. Meanwhile, opposition to repeal came largely from Otter and from some members of the GOP legislative leadership and lawmakers more closely affiliated with that wing of the party.

Currently, Idaho taxes grocery sales at 6 percent, the normal rate for most other items. The Legislature spent much of this year's session stuck on whether and how to cut taxes. In March, the Senate took an income tax cut proposal that had passed the House and turned it into a grocery tax repeal bill instead, and this ended up being the only tax cut that passed both chambers. Otter, who had said from the start he opposed repeal and worried it would deprive the state of needed revenue, vetoed the bill, although some lawmakers are suing to overturn the veto on the grounds that he missed the deadline in the state Constitution. 

A poll of 649 Idaho adults, conducted by Dan Jones and Associates from May 4 to 18, found 56 percent opposed to Otter's veto, with 39 percent supporting it and 5 percent unsure. A majority of Republicans backed the veto 51-44, while Democrats opposed it 65-27 and independents opposed it 61-35. Those who described themselves as "very conservative" opposed the veto 56-40, while those who described themselves as "somewhat conservative" also opposed the veto but only by 49-46. "Moderates" opposed the veto 61-37, the "somewhat liberal" opposed it 61-35 and the "very liberal" opposed it 71-22.

The poll has a 4 percent margin of error.

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