A great benefit in membership with NFIB are the frequent opportunities it provides to talk personally with top state and federal elected officials and policymakers who directly affect the ability of small-business owners to own, operate and grow their enterprises.
One such opportunity occurred April 9 when Gov. Butch Otter took some time to answer questions from NFIB members throughout Idaho. Mark from Idaho Falls, Shad from Bancroft, Jan from Nampa, and Bob from Salmon availed themselves of the NFIB-member exclusive opportunity to directly question the state’s chief executive.
The NFIB/Idaho Town Hall Teleconference was made possible by a generous donation from CenturyLink. Suzanne Budge, NFIB’s Idaho state director, hosted the event, and will future ones, as the governor noted in his closing remark, “If Suzi calls, I’ll do it again.”
During the teleconference, members were asked to vote on the biggest problem they face in doing business in Idaho, the results of which are in the sidebar to your right. This allowed Governor Otter to comment on them in real time.
On other issues members had on their mind:
Internet Sales Tax
“I would be in support of an online sales tax,” said the governor, who called a matter of fairness to bricks-and-mortar businesses who pay both property and sales taxes. Even though, he said, a majority in the Idaho Legislature also believes it’s a matter of fairness, nothing is going to happen until Congress passes “enabling legislation.”
NFIB has taken a neutral position on the Marketplace Fairness Act,
the enabling legislation, after nationwide balloting of its membership found them equally divided on the issue of Internet taxation.
“Fifty percent of all the problems, when talking to state agencies, are the federal government’s problems,” Governor Otter said. “There’s nothing I’d like more than [federal] regulatory agencies to leave Idaho alone.
The governor noted that the regulatory over-reach by the federal government might start to abate, because “the federal government is running out of money.” This he called the one bit of “sunshine on the horizon” in the otherwise bleak picture of federal budget deficits.
“We’ve repealed a lot of laws,” said the governor, who told listeners that most of the regulatory burden small-business owners face comes from Washington, D.C.
The State’s Economy
“We pride ourselves in moving at the speed of business,” said Governor Otter, who told the story of a huge plant that was just built in record time. “We brought in a lot of business in Idaho because of our savvy.”
One “tool” the governor said Idaho will be using is tax credits of 30 percent for businesses that create 50 jobs in urban areas and 20 percent in rural areas. The credits were passed by the Legislature this year and become effective July 1.
The governor reminded one caller that personal and corporate income taxes were reduced in the past two years to 7.4 percent each from 7.8 percent on the former and 7.4 percent on the latter.
“We’d like to be around 5 percent,” said the governor, but also noted there were no tax deductions this year, because there was no legislative appetite for doing so. Unlike neighboring states, which have a lot of “subsurface wealth” (coal, gas, oil), Idaho does not have that revenue source in any big way, said the governor.
The governor told listeners that education funding increase by $83 million in the latest budget, which he called an investment in one of the concerns NFIB members voting on the call listed: An educated workforce.
Specifically, Governor Otter wants to broaden community college efforts toward an educated workforce, and even pointed to himself as an example by going to one to get his certificate for aluminum welding.
Rather than think in terms of K-through-12 grades, the governor said, he wants Idahoans to start thinking about K-through-Career, which is his educational vision for the future.
Citing Idaho’s success in cleaning up its forests, and thereby being less susceptible to wild fires, the governor said he will submit a plan to take over management – not ownership – of 12 million acres of federal land.
“As long as I’m governor, I’m going to resist it,” Governor Otter said about raising the state’s minimum wage, citing himself as an example of someone who might not have received the pay increases he did as a young man if his employer had been limited to complying with an increase.
The governor said he issued only one line-item veto in the last state budget sent to him by the Legislature: His own pay raise. He said if there were no increases for other state workers, he shouldn’t get one either.
You can listen to the entire conversation between Governor Otter and NFIB members right here.