BOISE - What started out as an income tax relief bill was rewritten by state lawmakers and turned into a grocery tax repeal that would remove the state's 6 percent tax on food and beverages.
House members on Monday voted 51-19 to advance the proposal despite facing opposition from Gov. Butch Otter.
"They have to pay their gas bill, they have to pay their electric bill," said Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise. "So that 6 bucks or that 36 bucks that they save is going to go into something that's going to help them stay afloat right now."
Right now, the taxes you pay on groceries go into the state's general fund.
"There is an argument that this is going to make our financial challenges tight moving forward but this is also something that almost every Idahoan that I've talked to wants," Erpelding said.
Erpelding voted in favor of the repeal and says the biggest challenge if this bill becomes law will be making sure the state has enough revenue to fund everything that it does now.
"Anytime you eliminate any tax you're going to decrease the next year's revenue," Erpelding said.
Rep. John Gannon voted against the repeal because he says it's just not fiscally responsible.
"We're going to borrow, if we pass SB 1206, $300 million for roads, we've borrowed money for the HP campus," said Gannon.
The proposal will slash an estimated $80 million from the state's general fund, which will be difficult to recover from says Gannon.
Erpelding says ways to make up the difference include making sure online retailers like Amazon pay sales tax. Lawmakers are hopeful that the bill will be signed into law.
"If you talk to the average Idahoan they're going to say I don't really like paying taxes on my groceries," Erpelding said.
Idaho would join 37 other states to not put a sales tax on groceries. Otter came out against the bill earlier this session, but has not yet said if he will veto it.
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