Category: politics

Stephen Hartgen 01

Notice how Democrats are always wringing their hands about how tax exemptions to “special interests” are depriving the state of needed revenue, but when it comes to which specific sales tax exemption should be eliminated, they turn oddly silent?

The reasons are plain enough: Removing current exemptions effectively raises taxes on specific industries and activities, and Dems have already labeled themselves as consistently tax raisers, so why call more attention to what everyone knows? 

Another reason is that, by listing specifics, they may ruffle the feathers of potential donors to their own campaigns. Much easier to rail on about problems generally, but ignore how you’d fix ‘em.

We call this “taxus exemptus interruptus,” sort of like “impeachment interruptus” in which Dems can’t quite get to, ahem, the end. Rather, they fritter and fume about those evil “bribery” Republicans, but won’t put “bribery” it into articles of impeachment. Put up or shut up? Nah, guess we’ll go home, leaving only Joe Biden to clearly define what bribery is on YouTube.

So now in Idaho we have a freshman Boise Dem in the House who’s extoling how exemptions generally need to be curtailed and that they’re “fiscal elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about: sales tax exemptions, which are rarely reviewed and never sunset.” What he doesn’t say is that he wants to raise your taxes, take more of your money from your wallet.

Yeah, OK. So, good representative, which specific current exemptions do you think should be repealed? “Well, I dunno. You guys take that up. I just think they all need examination.” More taxus exemptus interruptus, Yada. yada.

Calling for repeal of unnamed exemptions is just code language and virtue signaling. Everyone knows where Dems stand on taxes: they want them raised, thus to keep adding to government’s reach. But you can’t say that in public. Look what happened to poor Walter Mondale when he said, in a debate with Ronald Reagan, that he’d raise Americans’ taxes. Boom!

So our good Boise Dem calls for raising taxes, but won’t say which ones. Fine. Come back when you’re willing to name ‘em. How about medicine? That would add 6 percent to prescriptions and every medical procedure. How about caskets? Nope, grievers have too much to deal with already. How about legal services? Nope, plaintiff lawyers are often big donors to Dem candidates. How about manufacturing, production and agriculture? Nope, that would hurt economic growth. Computer cloud hosting? Nope, that would inhibit technological expansion.

The list of current exemptions isn’t hard to find. You can see it at the Idaho Tax Commission website (www. There are many exempt transactions, including ski lifts (think Bogus Basin and Sun Valley), media advertising preparation (couldn’t go there since they usually endorse Dems.) So, which ones do you want to eliminate? Come on, speak up.

I served on the House Revenue & Taxation Committee for six years and the biggest exemptions, moneywise, are production, manufacturing, mining, forestry and agriculture, medical expenses and a broad range of services, such as accounting and legal. Smaller items include funeral services, but do legislators really want to ding survivors with a 6 percent tax on caskets? That’s truly a DOA proposal, a coffin already with nails.  

The reality about sales tax exemptions is that every single one is in the code because someone wanted it, from funeral homes to pharmacies. Every exemption has a group which wants to keep it. So all this talk about removing exemptions is just so much partisan hooey. Folks may rail all they want about removing exemptions, but in every case, that would raise someone’s taxes. Wake us when the Dems bring specifics. Simple enough.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of the new book “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.