Focus on farming concerns some lawmakers
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- A bill that would offer producers and others a maximum tax credit of $500,000 for adding value to Idaho agricultural products and creating jobs is being resurrected in the Idaho Legislature.
The so-called Ag Jobs bill was considered dead Feb. 5 when the House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted 9-6 to hold it. But ag industry leaders have worked with the bill's authors to rewrite it to address some of the concerns that caused lawmakers to oppose it.
"We're going to bring it back," said Milk Producers of Idaho Executive Director Brent Olmstead, who believes there is still time in the legislative session to get the bill passed. "Until they (adjourn), there's always time."
The bill would offer producers and others involved with agriculture a state income tax credit of up to $500,000 for investing in any process that adds value to an Idaho ag commodity and creates at least one job.
It would provide a tax credit of up to 30 percent on an investment to build a processing plant or other value-added process for Idaho ag commodities, and producers could receive the credit in the form of 50 percent of their tax liability for up to 14 years.
The bill passed the House 62-6 last year but never got out of a Senate committee. This year, it's facing opposition from House legislators who are concerned that it's only being offered to the agricultural industry. Others are concerned about the bill's potential impact on state coffers.
The rewritten bill is being studied by officials from the Idaho Department of Commerce and Idaho Tax Commission, and the bill's authors have involved some of the lawmakers who opposed it in the rewrite.
"Everybody's vetting it," said Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, the bill's author. "I think we can answer those questions and get it passed."
The rewritten bill accomplishes the same things but it's worded differently in an attempt to address lawmakers' concerns, Lacey said.
The bill is supported by most of the state's main farm groups because they believe it could help spur more agriculture-related processing in Idaho.
"It's supported pretty much across the board by agriculture," Olmstead said.
One of the main concerns of lawmakers who voted against it was that the legislature would be picking winners and losers because the bill is limited to agriculture. Lacey said the rewritten version will be presented as a pilot project with a sunset date.
He also said the legislation wouldn't cost the state anything since people couldn't qualify for the credit unless their investment resulted in them paying state taxes on the project and creating jobs.
"We don't see how it's picking winners and losers," Olmstead said. "It has a sunset clause. If it doesn't work, the state is not out of anything. If it does work, the Legislature could apply it to other segments of the economy."