A few thoughts on a few, somewhat random, topics...

Otter and the food tax repeal. Will Gov. Butch Otter sign or veto the repeal of Idaho’s sales tax on food?  The Legislature voted overwhelming to do so but the cost is steep, over $70 million per year.

Word on the street is that many legislators voted in favor with the expectation that Otter would veto the measure. The theory is that it was a “free vote” without consequence.

Otter’s handpicked successor, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, issued a press statement favoring the measure. Numerous other legislators have also encouraged Otter to sign the bill.

There is risk of a repeal based on the experience of our neighbor to the south. Utah’s Legislature reduced its state sale tax on food in 2006 from 4.75% to 1.75%.  The result has been to destabilize the state tax system with projected revenue shortfalls despite Utah’s strong economy. 

So, does Otter protect the general fund or does he join the repeal bandwagon? My guess is a veto but stay tuned. I don’t think just allowing the measure to become law without a signature is completely out of the realm of possibility. Otter has until April 12to make his final decision.

Is the lieutenant governor’s race wide open, or pre-determined? With Lt. Gov. Brad Little looking to take the top spot, his current position is drawing a bevy of Republican competitors:  Idaho State Sen. Marv Hagedorn, former State Rep. Janice McGeachin, current State Rep. Kelley Packer and, potentially, GOP State Chair Steve Yates.

Here is my initial take on each.

Yates has the highest profile, having been the subject of numerous media interviews, and the broadest potential network in that he knows virtually every GOP activist in Idaho. Will he focus on his conservative politics and/or play up his ability to open markets for Idaho companies (he speaks fluent Mandarin)?

Kelly Packer hails from the Pocatello area. She admirably fended off a 2016 primary challenge from a hard right opponent. She has backed some sort of healthcare coverage for the “gap population” in Idaho. Perceived as sort of a moderate.

Janice McGeachin is a loyal, enthusiastic Trump backer and conservative activist from the Idaho Falls area. She runs a pub & grill in downtown Idaho Falls. Social media savvy. As the most conservative candidate in the race she will attract lots of hard right folks. Can she raise the money necessary to compete with Yates?

Marv Hagedorn is 12-year member of the legislature who represents Meridian and Eagle. He is known for his advocacy of veterans’ issues, but has drawn some hostility from conservative activists in the past. As the only candidate from west of Pocatello, he may have an edge in the important Treasure Valley area.

I wouldn’t be surprised if others join the fray.

National coverage for Twin Falls. Last week the New York Times did a great story on Twin Falls’ spectacular economic growth. It highlighted the massive Chobani plant, a low unemployment rate and rising wages. The money quote: “New manufacturing jobs and population growth have bolstered southern Idaho, bucking the pattern, and the perception, of rural struggle.” A hat tip to the economic development folks in the Magic Valley.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com).  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..