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End-of-Session Tax Proposal Explained

GRAPH: The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy has analyzed a tax bill being considered by lawmakers, and says 80 percent of Idahoans would be paying higher taxes. Graph provided by Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy.
GRAPH: The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy has analyzed a tax bill being considered by lawmakers, and says 80 percent of Idahoans would be paying higher taxes. Graph provided by Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy.
March 30, 2015

BOISE, Idaho - No more sales tax on food, a higher gas tax and a flat income-tax rate are all part of a proposal the Idaho Legislature is expected to take up this week and it's predicted lawmakers will wrap up the session by Friday.

Lauren Necochea, director at the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, has testified about the plan, offering explanations about how a flat tax would affect most Idahoans.

"Essentially, this is a shift of who carries the income tax load," says Necochea. "Top earners get a tax cut and to pay for that cut, taxes will go up on the middle class."

Idaho currently has a graduated income tax rate, meaning those who earn more pay a higher percentage. Necochea says a flat rate of 6.7 percent on those with at least nearly $6,000 in taxable income means about 80 percent of Idahoans would see a higher rate.

She calls the bill "complex" because it contains several tax changes, rather than addressing each tax component on its own merit. It's estimated the higher gas tax would bring in about $65 million a year for transportation projects. Necochea says the other pieces of the bill would affect the state's bottom line.

"There's also a grocery tax credit-sales tax swap in the bill that's going to cost about $50 million to the general fund, which is our main source of funding to schools," she says.

That swap would eliminate sales tax on food, along with the current state grocery tax credit. Necochea says the credit is more beneficial to working families and seniors than elimination of the sales tax on food.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID