Grocery tax adversaries get their day in court

After an Idaho Supreme Court hearing that focused on timing, both sides in the grocery tax issue will just have to wait.

On Thursday, justices heard arguments on Gov. Butch Otter’s veto of the grocery tax repeal bill — and whether it met constitutional muster.

The implications for education: Roughly $50 million a year. Repealing the grocery tax would take $80 million a year out of the state general fund. Based on the way the state carves up its budget dollars, that $80 million translates to about a $50 million impact on K-12 and higher education.

That impact was not lost on Otter. In his April 11 veto message, Otter chided lawmakers for failing to consider the financial implications of the repeal, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The constitutional question: Did Otter veto the bill in time?

That’s what lawyers debated Thursday.

The state’s attorneys say Otter met the constitutional deadline, saying the clock began ticking after he received the bill. The attorney for the 30 lawmakers pushing for repeal says the clock began ticking on March 29, when the Legislature adjourned for the year; by that reading, Otter waited too long to act.

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That’s the question before the Supreme Court.

For more from Thursday’s hearing, here’s full coverage from Kimberlee Kruesi of the Associated Press, and Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review.