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Idaho House of Representatives calls for increasing grocery tax credit by $20

Idaho House In Session
Otto Kitsinger
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The House in session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

If passed into law, the bill would increase the credit from $100 to $120 and up to $140 for seniors

After a long debate Thursday, the Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill that would increase the tax credit for groceries Idahoans receive by $20.

If passed into law, House Bill 509 would increase the grocery tax credit from $100 to $120 beginning in tax year 2023. For eligible seniors, the grocery tax credit would increase from $120 to $140 at the same time.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Addis, R- Coeur d’Alene, said the purpose of the bill “is to help ensure the credit remains commensurate with the rising cost of food.”

“For a family of four, this bill provides sales tax relief for $8,000 of food purchased annually,” Addis added.

The grocery tax has become an increasingly hot topic during the 2022 legislative session. Twice this week, Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, tried unsuccessfully to use parliamentary procedures on the House floor in an effort to repeal the sales tax on groceries altogether. The grocery tax credit and property taxes also figured into the $600 million income tax credit and rebate debate earlier this year.

On Thursday, several legislators from both parties said the $20 increase doesn’t do nearly enough to help Idahoans who have struggled to afford food as inflation increases and housing costs continue to climb.

“A 20% adjustment to the grocery tax credit in two years doesn’t address the problem and really doesn’t do anything,” said Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise.

Several conservative legislators, including Nate and Reps. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, Heather Scott, R-Blanchard and Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, broke with establishment Republicans and voted against the bill to increase the grocery tax credit.

During debate over the bill Scott called the bill “lame” and pointed out the state is sitting on a projected surplus of $1.9 billion.

“That to me is a slap in citizens’ faces when we are flush with cash in this state,” Scott said. “This is an embarrassment, I think, to give to our citizens.”

But in the end, the bill passed with a comfortable margin to spare.

“I just want to remind everyone when we look at this piece of legislation it does one thing; it provides tax relief to taxpaying Idahoans,” said Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett.

House Bill 509 passed 40-27. It heads next to the Idaho Senate for consideration.