Bringing the Economy Home

Democrats, Republicans Working on Proposals to Boost Idaho Job Growth

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Idaho's unemployment rate was last measured at 8.5 percent, a two-year low.

Some of the Republican lawmakers we’ve spoken with over the last few weeks have said the path to job growth in Idaho is through tax relief.  Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star) says Idaho’s tax rates are hurting private sector growth.  “We’re higher than every state around us,” Moyle says, “which is not a good place to be when we’re trying to get businesses and jobs to come here.”

Moyle is working on a bill for the 2012 session to lower Idaho’s tax rates.  He wouldn’t get into specifics.

The Senate President Pro-Tem says the key to job growth is a stable tax system, which for him doesn’t necessarily mean lowering rates.  Sen. Brent Hill (R-Rexburg) says new jobs will be created when businesses can rely on Idaho’s tax policies.

The co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s main budgeting committee, Joint Finance Appropriations Committee, says the state is doing what it can to create jobs.  Rep. Maxine Bell (R-Jerome) says her job is to make sure she doesn’t put any undue regulations or taxes on business.  “I think we’re doing what we can do,” she says.  “It’s definitely those local people, local councils and economic development people…those folks have got to sell it.”

But for Democratic Sen. Elliot Werk, the state isn’t doing enough to spur job creation.  Werk is critical of the 2011 Hire One Act, which provides a tax break to companies who create jobs.  “I would say the state has done absolutely nothing in the last three years to create growth in the private sector,” Werk says.  “In fact, when you look around, we have airlines vacating the Boise airport because they don’t have sufficient business from Idaho to maintain those routes.  We haven’t seen any kind of jobs package from the majority party that’s passed the legislature.”

Werk says Democrats are working on a package of job-creating bills similar to its 2010 attempt dubbed IJOBs.  The Idaho Jobs and Opportunity Blueprint was composed of six bills ranging from a measure to grow green jobs to a tax credit on venture-capital investments.  None of the bills passed.

“We even had a jobs council that we thought would get state governments focused on creating jobs,” Werk says.  “In the coming session the Democrats will be coming up with another slate of job creation packages to help the private sector create jobs and we look forward to our Republican counterparts this time deciding to take job creation seriously and working with us.”

Lawmakers will be asked to support Governor Otter’s proposal to back start-up companies and research.  The Associated Press reports the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission or iGem will be one of Otter’s central proposals of the 2012 session.

The Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, or iGem, as the proposal is called, includes a strategy of luring talented researchers to Idaho universities and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls. Once they arrive, they’ll research energy, materials science and manufacturing, computer science and bio and agricultural technology — areas where Idaho has a foundation — to develop products and spin off companies.  It’s a program modeled after one in Utah that’s gotten $73.5 million in state support since 2006, as well as $201 million in new higher-education facilities. – AP

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle told the AP the Legislature is interested in doing anything it can to create jobs, but will require proof that spending taxpayer money will work.  “I think there’s other things the Legislature can do to help create jobs,” Moyle says.  “There’s a lot of available tools that we ought to be selling and using to draw businesses here.”


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