Bringing the Economy Home


Why Urban Renewal Faces Resistance In Idaho

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Melinda Anderson shows off what will be a new downtown headquarters for dairy manufacturer Glanbia. It's a project aided by Twin Falls' urban renewal agency.

Urban renewal districts allow communities to leverage property tax dollars to support local economic development. There are more than 60 of them in Idaho. But this legislative session has brought fresh signs that, in some corners, urban renewal isn’t exactly popular – even as it supports the state’s most touted new company.

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What Idaho Lawmakers Know – And Don’t – When Making Tough Tax Policy Decisions

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Mike Chakarun is tax policy manager for the Idaho State Tax Commission.

A left-leaning tax policy group recently put out a short little report about the state corporate income taxes paid by IDACorp. That’s the holding company of Idaho’s largest electric utility, Idaho Power.  The report claims IDACorp paid no state income taxes nationwide from 2007 through 2011. It led StateImpact to a larger question: What information do lawmakers have when they make big tax policy decisions?

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With $140,000 On The Line, Idaho Girl Scouts Try Their Hand At Lobbying

Famous for its potatoes, trout fishing, and blue AstroTurf, Idaho might not have much in common with Hawaii. But here’s one thing: Idaho and Hawaii are the only two states in the country to tax Girl Scout Cookies. Now, some local Scouts are beefing up their sales pitches and learning to lobby.

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Boise’s Housing Bust Leaves Unlikely Victims In A Neighborhood That Saw The Worst

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Ryan, Scott and Tara Arellano, at home in their kitchen

Homeowners, credit intact, still making their monthly mortgage payments.  They’re not who we think of first when we think of the damage brought on by the housing crisis. But in a sprawling, master-planned southwest Boise subdivision called Charter Pointe, they’re a group that has struggled.

More than most cities, Boise felt the brunt of the housing crisis. Home prices dropped by 46 percent.  Foreclosures peaked in the Boise area three years ago, in March of 2010. County records show that a year after that, 90 percent of the houses that sold in Charter Pointe were foreclosures or short sales. We wondered: What is  the story now in a place that bore the weight of collapsing home prices?

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Nixing Personal Property Tax Would “Devastate” One Eastern Idaho County

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Power County Hospital is funded in part by taxpayer support. A good deal of those taxpayer dollars will disappear if lawmakers eliminate Idaho's business personal property tax.

This week, we’re devoting some time to understanding Idaho’s business personal property tax. Ending that tax is a priority for the governor and some of the state’s biggest businesses. But it generates millions for local government. Yesterday, we explained what the personal property tax is. Today, we go to Power County, in eastern Idaho. Local leaders say getting rid of the tax could have serious effects.

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Explaining Idaho’s Personal Property Tax, With A Little Help From A Boise Candy Store

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Debbie and Joe Giordano, of Powell's Sweet Shoppe in Boise

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and many of the Idaho Legislature’s Republican leaders are in agreement: something has to happen on the personal property tax this session.  And by “something,” they mean a plan to get rid of it.  But there’s a problem.  The tax generates $140 million dollars each year for local government.  In this story, we start at square one: explaining this thing called the personal property tax.

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Understanding The Wage Gap Between Men And Women In Idaho’s State Workforce

Carsten / Three Lions/Getty Images

An office assistant, balancing on a stepladder to reach the top drawer of a filing cabinet

This morning, StateImpact published a report on the pay gap between men and women who work for the State of Idaho. Molly Messick joined Boise State Public Radio’s Morning Edition host Scott Graf to talk through the findings.

Q: First off, tell us a little about why you decided to look into this issue of pay equity in Idaho state government.

A: Sure.  Every so often, we see reports that compare the earnings of men and women nationally and by state.  In those reports, Idaho often falls at the bottom of the list in terms of the amount female workers earn compared to male workers.  In September, a report based on Census data showed that women working full-time in Idaho earn about 75 cents on the dollar earned by men working full-time. Continue Reading

Mike Ferguson: The Math Doesn’t Work On Gov. Otter’s Plan To Repeal Business Property Tax

Joe JASZEWSKI / Idaho Statesman

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter delivering his State of the State address, Jan. 7, 2013.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s State of the State speech yesterday shed light on his agenda for the 2013 legislative session. Otter doesn’t want to commit to expanding Medicaid eligibility for low-income Idahoans, he didn’t set a clear path on education reform.  And he strongly advocated for getting rid of Idaho’s business personal property tax.

Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy director Mike Ferguson says Gov. Otter’s budget proposal doesn’t put the state’s “priorities in the right place.” The governor’s suggested budget spends about $84 million more in fiscal year 2014 than in fiscal year 2013, bumping total state general fund spending to $2.78 billion. That’s a 3.1 percent increase. To get there, the Otter administration assumes Idaho’s revenue will grow 5.27 percent, growth the state hasn’t experienced since before the recession. Continue Reading

Gov. Otter Rejects Medicaid Expansion, Supports Personal Property Tax Repeal

Aaron Kunz / Boise State Public Radio

Gov. Otter delivered his State of the State and Budget Address this afternoon.

Today, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter told lawmakers and the public that he wants to repeal the state’s tax on business personal property, which generates roughly $140 million for local government each year.  He also said he does not support an expansion of Medicaid eligibility in Idaho, at least not at this time.  StateImpact talked through those two significant policy points with Boise State Public Radio host Samantha Wright.

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Existing Wind Projects Fare Well Under Public Utilities Commission Ruling, But There’s A Catch

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

In four years, 30 wind farms were approved in Idaho. Before that boom, the state had just one.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission today handed a key victory to wind developers currently operating in the state, but it did so while imposing an indirect limit on the amount of wind development Idaho is likely to see in the near future.

“There are very different implications for existing versus new wind developers,” the Idaho Conservation League’s Ben Otto said after reviewing the PUC’s decision.  Continue Reading

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