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2007: It's About Your Money

Legislature readies for money debates

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Sure, it's campaign rhetoric, but you might get a forecast for the 2007 session of the Idaho Legislature by listening to lawmakers now.

At the signing ceremony for the property-and-sales tax shift passed during the one-day special session, Republican majority lawmakers said they were thinking to 2007 already and targeting Idaho's food tax. As one of eight states that still levies a tax on the purchase of edibles, Idaho has been slow to catch up. Maybe now, with state surpluses in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Idaho will move in that direction.

"I would be very surprised if it does not get the Legislature's attention in the next legislative session," said Gov. Jim Risch.

The outgoing chairwoman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, Republican Dolores Crow of Nampa, seconded Risch.

"I think you will see a big step in that direction," Crow said as she stood by Risch.

Apparently pocketbook issues are all the rage. As they gathered for a Labor Day picnic in Boise, Idaho Democrats said they'll be looking to raise Idaho's minimum wage when they get back to the Statehouse in January.

Democrats unveiled a plan to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour from the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour.

"It's the right thing to do, because we are all our brothers' keepers," said Rep. Shirley Ringo, a Moscow Democrat, in a prepared statement.

The statewide push mirrors a national strategy by Democrats, who are pushing to bump up the minimum wage in several states.

A state Commerce and Labor analysis, requested by Ringo, found that two of every 15 jobs in Idaho last year paid between the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour and $7.25 an hour. If Idaho brought all 80,100 jobs paying less than $7.25 an hour up to that level, the agency estimated, it would cost about $142.5 million in 2005 dollars. That is just three-quarters of 1 percent of the 2005 statewide payroll of $19 billion.