Initiative could lower Idaho sales tax, but not without opposition

Initiative could lower Idaho sales tax, but not without opposition

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by Andrea Lutz

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBandrealutz

KTVB.COM

Posted on February 6, 2012 at 11:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 7 at 11:55 AM

BOISE -- A new bill drawn up by a Moscow representative is sparking conversation.

Democrat Shirley Ringo introduced House Bill 354 and said it could put $400 million into the state's general fund, so things like the cost for tuition at Idaho’s colleges and universities would not increase.

“We are just looking for more revenue to better fund programs,” said Ringo.

However, her bill is not a new idea.  Idahoans have been hearing about this change for decades and each time the bill surfaces in the Idaho Legislature it doesn’t go far. This proposal would lower the state sales tax from 6 percent to 5 percent.

Boise State University business major Phil Sansotta is finishing up his senior year.  He is also funding his education with student loans.

“It’s rough, you know, trying to work and go to school full time, it's really tough you have to take out loans just to pay the bills,” said Sansotta.

He, like many Idaho college students, said tuition is not easy to afford.

“It’s way too high,” he said.

The idea of implementing a 5 percent sales tax does not go without its opposition.  It would begin to apply to other goods and services, like lottery tickets, pari-mutual betting, broadcast equipment and snow groomers just to name a few.  It also means a lift ticket at Bogus Basin, for example, will cost you an additional 5 percent to cover the sales tax.

“The theory behind that is that people that go skiing probably have a little discretionary money that they are able to spend, so they put in a little bit at that level and it will help us to lower it someplace else,” said Ringo.

Ringo says even if House Bill 354 doesn't make it through the Legislature this year, at least the voters would have the opportunity to decide. She's also working on a voter initiative.

“It’s not everybody's favorite thing to do, but we know if there are services we want the state to provide, it comes at a cost,” said Ringo.

This bill has not been heard yet in the House Revenue and Tax Committee, and as far as the voter initiative, backers are raising funds now.  They must collect 47,000 signatures by April 30 to make it on the 2012 November ballot.

The State Sales Tax Reform Initiative group must file its petitions with the secretary of state no later than four months before the election that would have the initiative on the ballot.

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