Grocery bill no simple cookie

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  • LISA JAMES/Press

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    LISA JAMES/PressShoppers file into Super 1 in Coeur d'Alene on Monday afternoon under a light rain. Idaho lawmakers are considering repealing the state's sales tax on groceries and the grocery credit.

  • LISA JAMES/Press

  • 1

    LISA JAMES/PressShoppers file into Super 1 in Coeur d'Alene on Monday afternoon under a light rain. Idaho lawmakers are considering repealing the state's sales tax on groceries and the grocery credit.

In the great state of Texas, consumers don't pay sales tax on non-prepared food items.

"You only paid a tax on prepared food — canned foods, anything that was cooked or prepared, ready to eat, you’d pay a tax on it," said Romey Jackson, who moved to Coeur d'Alene from the Lone Star State five months ago.

He said he thought the system worked well in Texas, but his property taxes were through the roof.

"It’s really hard for me to get angry about Idaho taxes, except for the income tax, when the property taxes are so low," he said. "I don’t know how y’all fund government services with property taxes being so low."

Idaho legislators are considering repealing sales tax on grocery items and doing away with the $100 grocery credit citizens can get back with their yearly income taxes. Late Monday, the Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the 6 percent sales tax on grocery items and the bill will now go to Gov. Butch Otter.

Many legislators are for repeal while others, including Otter, are opposed.

Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, explained why repealing the grocery tax and credit makes sense.

"People pay the tax and then get most of it back when filing taxes. Why give the state a loan when you are going to get the money back pretty immediately? Why not just keep the money?" he said. "The grocery tax can be fairly aggressive if you are a lower income family. It puts a harder hit on you."

Otter clearly stated his opposition to eliminating the grocery tax and credit in a March 23 letter to Idaho representatives. He said removing the tax would reduce general fund revenue by more than $201 million, "which is almost $53 million more than the amount now being paid out through the grocery tax credit."

"We understand from the experience of other states that removing the sales tax on groceries destabilizes the revenue stream," Otter said in the letter. "People buy groceries in good times and bad, so the tax provides a steady source of revenue for the essential services of state government. As revenue fluctuates from less stable sources, it could be more difficult to fund our commitments."

Local shoppers, such as Jackson, are varied in their opinions of whether Idaho should make this change.

"I think we should just keep it," said Megan Kolakowski of Coeur d'Alene. "I don’t like the higher everything else. It’s just easier this way."

"It would be a good thing," said Mike Jensen of Coeur d'Alene. "We lived in Montana, where they have no sales tax, but then you have higher registration and all that good stuff. It kind of all evens out."

Sara Bennett of Rathdrum said not having the sales tax on groceries will give people more flexibility.

"I think people will probably spend more on groceries if there was no tax because they would have more money,” she said. "I think people will shop anyways, regardless of tax. If they could take the tax off the Girl Scout cookies for Idaho, I’d be in favor of that.”

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