BOISE — A sweeping $200 million tax cut plan is headed to the Idaho Senate after House lawmakers spent several hours Wednesday exchanging accusations and heated remarks while debating the merits of the proposal.
"This bill tries to make Idaho more competitive, it helps everyone who pays taxes," said House Majority Mike Moyle, a Republican from Star and sponsor of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's large tax proposal.
In total, the proposal passed on a party-line vote on Wednesday with only the House's 11 Democrats voted against the bill. If approved, the plan would reduce personal income and corporate tax rates and create a $130 Idaho child tax credit.
However, the lengthy debate involved multiple efforts by Republicans and Democrats to circumvent legislative leadership and kill the proposal by using legislative rules and procedures. The House's most combative Republicans — who have pushed for different tax cuts currently not introduced in the Statehouse — teamed up with the chamber's 11 Democrats. Together they called for motions typically ignored by members unwilling to go against the House speaker and his methods of getting legislation heard.
Republican Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard made the first motion to amend the bill, causing Moyle to say it was a "hostile move" and accused Scott of trying to raise taxes for Idaho's families. Meanwhile, several GOP members expressed frustration that House Speaker Scott Bedke banned them from discussing other tax cut proposals — such as repealing the current sales tax on groceries — while Democrats were freely able to mention other policy initiatives to argue against the bill.
"The child tax credit should be taken out and something else should be put in its place," said Rep. Ryan Kerby, a Republican from New Plymouth, after being admonished by Bedke for mentioning the grocery sales tax repeal.
Yet in the end, the disruptions failed to get enough support and all 59 Republicans who are up for re-election later this year voted in favor of the bill.
"This is a $200 million trainwreck," said House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, a Democrat from Boise.
The bill seeks to reduce all seven of Idaho's brackets for personal income tax rates and corporate tax rates by 0.475 percent. Doing so would lower the state's general fund by $159.6 million. The $130 child tax credit would slash the fund by $42.3 million.
The plan would also align Idaho's income tax code for fiscal year 2019-2020 to recent federal changes in the tax overhaul signed by President Donald Trump.
The Idaho Legislature typically syncs the state's tax code with the federal version each year to make it easier for residents and businesses to do their taxes, as well as avoid having to keep separate accounting books to track the different rules. The typically mundane request has recently faced opposition from several GOP House members over the years, who argue the state should not comply with the federal government because the IRS requires the state to recognize same-sex marriages.
Idaho's constitutional same-sex marriage ban was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014, but the state constitution still includes language banning gay marriage.
Just several weeks ago, Scott, Rep. Ron Nate of Rexburg and three other Republicans refused to vote for a bill conforming state tax code to new federal changes in fiscal year 2018-2019 — citing that they could not vote for a bill that violated the Idaho Constitution. Yet all five of those same lawmakers voted in favor of the tax cut bill on Wednesday without explaining how the bill addressed their previous constitutional concerns.
HB 463 must now clear the Senate.