Will the sales tax on groceries be repealed in 2022?
Tax relief has been an important topic of discussion in the 2022 Idaho legislative session among Republican and Democrat lawmakers. One tax relief bill (HB 436) has already made it through the Idaho House and is now in the Idaho Senate. However, all Democrats opposed the measure, and all Republicans supported it except for Rep. Fred Wood (Burley).
During the debate on HB 436, both Democrats and Republicans said that the sales tax on groceries should be repealed.
In the 2018 Idaho legislative session, a bill to repeal the “grocery tax” was sent to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk. Otter vetoed the legislation.
During the 2018 Republican gubernatorial race, then Lt. Gov. Brad Little said he supported the grocery tax’s repeal. However, a bill to repeal the grocery tax has not made it to Little’s desk since he became governor.
During each legislative session since Little became governor, the issue of repealing the grocery tax has come up. However, a bill has not made it to Little’s desk as of this writing.
For the 2022 legislative session, two proposals have been put forward to repeal the grocery tax.
House Bill 448 is being sponsored by Rep. Ron Nate (R-Rexburg), and House Bill 470 is being sponsored by Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird). Both bills are currently in the House Ways and Means Committee as “personal bills.”
Tax bills are typically routed through the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. The Chairman of that committee is Rep. Steven Harris (R-Meridian).
Idaho Dispatch asked Nate why he did not submit his bill to go through Harris’s committee. Here is what Nate told us,
The chair of house Rev and tax, Rep Steve Harris, is refusing to hear any other tax-cutting bills other than this income tax bill. He is dug in and will not allow a hearing on grocery tax repeal.
When asked why he supported repealing the grocery tax, Nate told Idaho Dispatch,
1. Families need immediate tax relief and the GTR will be immediate.
2. Idaho has a huge budget surplus. There is no reason to not “return the change” to taxpayers instead of spending it up on bigger government.
3. Idaho is one of only 5 states that fully taxes food. We should join the many other states that exempt food from taxes.
Bonus: With our high inflation in food prices, Idahoans shouldn’t be stuck paying even MORE in sales taxes, keep the money with families instead of government getting even more in taxes.
Giddings also told Idaho Dispatch that she submitted her bill as a personal bill because Harris would not hear it in his committee.
Idaho Dispatch reached out to Harris to ask for his input on Nate’s claims about not wanting to do a grocery tax repeal bill in his committee. Harris has not yet responded to our request for comment.
It isn’t just Republicans who are pushing for the grocery tax repeal, as Democrats are also calling for it to be done as well.
Idaho Dispatch asked House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) why she believes the grocery tax repeal can’t gain traction after making it to Otter’s desk years ago? Here is what Rubel told Idaho Dispatch,
I think that we could have had a successful bipartisan coalition to repeal the sales tax on groceries this year but for GOP’ legislators’ race to pass the Governor’s income / corporate tax cut bill, HB436. They rushed $600 million out the door – mostly to the wealthiest individuals and corporations in the state – and once that money was committed, it largely foreclosed the possibility of both funding education and infrastructure to the needed levels and ending the grocery tax. The Democrats put forth a plan for $600 million in grocery and property tax relief, but it was de facto rejected when GOP legislators chose HB436 instead.
Idaho Dispatch asked Rep. Colin Nash (D-Boise) why he supports repealing the grocery tax, and here was his response,
We have a moral obligation to repeal the sales tax on groceries, which would directly combat the negative effects of inflation for Idaho’s working families.
In addition to Rubel and Nash, Idaho Dispatch also asked for comment from Rep. Chris Mathias (D-Boise), Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum), and Sen. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise). We have not received a reply from them at this time.
The Idaho Democrat Party has also expressed support for repealing the grocery tax several times during the 2022 Idaho legislative session, including this most recent one on January 31:
On the Republican side, Idaho Dispatch sought comment from Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Meridian), Sen. Doug Ricks (R-Rexburg), House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks (Meridian), and Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls). None of them have replied to Idaho Dispatch’s request for comment as of this writing.
Idaho Dispatch also conducted a non-scientific online poll asking Idahoans if they supported repealing the grocery sales tax. With just over 700 responses, 93.8% of respondents said they supported repealing the grocery tax, 4.7% said they opposed it, and 1.5% said “maybe.”
Some individuals who had said “no” or “maybe” to repealing the grocery tax cited one reason the most. In particular, the respondents said that the grocery tax was a tax that all citizens had to pay as well as out-of-state shoppers. Therefore, they believed the focus should be on income and property tax changes.
Idaho Dispatch asked Giddings what her response is to those who oppose repealing the grocery tax because it is a tax that everyone pays. Here was Gidding’s response,
Those on food stamps don’t pay taxes on food (food bought with federal aid is not taxed) so the working poor who aren’t on food stamps are disadvantaged relative to those on food stamps. Idaho’s current grocery tax policy picks winners and losers and redistributes wealth.
Currently, there are no scheduled hearings for either of the proposed grocery tax repeal bills.
Tags: Colin Nash, Democrat, HB 448, HB 470, Ilana Rubel, Priscilla Giddings, Republican, Ron Nate