Idaho voters may consider local option for sales tax

Published: Sunday, Jan. 8 2012 6:28 p.m. MST

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Signatures are being gathered to get a proposal on the November ballot to decide whether communities should be allowed to have a local sales tax in addition to the state sales tax.

Proponents of the idea say it could reduce property taxes, while opponents say it's just another tax increase.

Twin Falls City Councilman Lance Clow backs the idea. If approved in a statewide vote, individual cities would then be able to let local voters decide whether a local option sales tax is right for them, Clow told The Times-News.

The Idaho Chamber Alliance also backs the idea.

But option sales tax ideas haven't been popular among Idaho lawmakers.

"I don't think it's ever gotten past being introduced into committee," said Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls.

That's why backers are collecting signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

Hartgen expects it to fail if it does get on the ballot.

"I think most people in this economy will say, 'Why can't cities and counties live within their means?'" he said.

Some Idaho towns already have a local option sales tax, but it's restricted to resort towns with fewer than 10,000 residents. Ketchum adds a 1 percent sales tax on top of the state's 6 percent.

Clow said it would allow economic centers such as Twin Falls to tax people who work and shop in the city but don't contribute to property taxes that help pay for a city's infrastructure.

He said a local option sales tax could allow Twin Falls to reduce its property taxes.

But Hartgen said a local option sales tax could also give consumers an incentive to shop where no such tax exists. He said that could be especially true for big purchases.

Another concern he has is that a city could face significant problems during an economic downturn if it becomes too dependent on a local option sales tax.

Information from: The Times-News, www.magicvalley.com

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