By some indications, it looked like the Senate might vote Tuesday afternoon on a far-reaching end-of-session tax package that passed the House a day earlier.
But that didn’t happen. And by all indications, it won’t happen.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis asked the Senate to hold House Bill 311 in committee. No senator objected. That procedural move all but kills the bill that would have raised the gas tax by seven cents, eliminated the sales tax on groceries and moved the three highest individual income tax rates into one 6.7 percent rate, which would have been a tax cut for some taxpayers and a tax increase for others.
Supporters, including House Republican leaders, said the bill would begin to address Idaho’s transportation funding needs, eliminate an onerous grocery tax — and boost education funding by growing the economy. Critics said the bill amounted to a tax break for the wealthy and a tax increase for working Idahoans — and a tax shift that undermined the state’s commitment to fund a $125 million career ladder to boost teacher pay.
Senate Republicans caucused briefly Tuesday afternoon. Minutes later, on the Senate floor, Davis said House Bill 311 did not enjoy majority support in the Senate. He asked the Senate to move the bill back to the Senate Transportation Committee, “where it will not be reconsidered this session.” The Senate agreed.
Davis said the Senate wants to consider other bills that would address the state’s transportation funding needs. Which may mean, in turn, that the Senate does not want to consider tax bills that would affect the state’s general fund, and K-12 funding. Gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, for example, do not go into the general fund.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Transportation Committee sent House Bill 311 to the Senate. The committee made no recommendation on the bill; generally, committees send bills to the floor with a recommendation that it pass. (More about the committee hearing from Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review and Melissa Davlin of “Idaho Reports”.)