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Bill that could withhold sales tax revenue from Boise over abortion resolution heads to House floor

A bill that could hit Boise’s bottom line over its stance on abortion is moving ahead at the Statehouse. 

On Wednesday, the House State Affairs Committee moved a bill to the floor on party lines that would withhold any sales tax revenue from cities or counties that pass an ordinance or resolution opting not to enforce Idaho’s abortion ban. If a city council or county commission doesn’t rescind their move to defy the state’s felony for abortion within 180 days, this bill would allow the state to keep that municipalities share of sales tax in the state’s general fund. 

Boise is the only city in Idaho that has passed a resolution in the wake of Roe vs. Wade being overturned saying the city would “deprioritize” using police resources to investigate abortion. Bill sponsor Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, didn’t directly name Boise in his introduction to the legislation, but he referred to “a government entity” that said it would not enforce the felony abortion ban after the legislature and courts put the law in place. 

“I had many calls from constituents over this past summer and fall saying ‘What are you going to do about this? We have a government entity saying we are not going to enforce criminal abortion’,” Skaug said.

This is another bill in the long-running trend of the Idaho Legislature passing bills aimed at ending Boise policy conservative lawmakers don’t agree with. This includes legislation aimed at regulating short-term rentals and several recent attempts to overturn Boise’s $30 rental application fee cap. 

City of Boise spokesperson Maria Weeg didn’t offer any commentary on the legislation, aside to say they are monitoring the topic. She said sales tax revenue accounted for $24 million of the city’s budget last year. It was 7.8% of the city’s general fund.

“During the legislative session we have a number of bills we’re watching and this is one of them,” she said. “Rather than come up with a hypothetical scenario of what bills may or may not pass this session, we’ll advocate for or against bills that are of concern to our residents and we’ll figure out what and how we need to address issues once we know if they’ve become law.”

Pro-life testimony dominated public hearing 

Tuesday’s committee hearing on the bill was short and sweet with little debate. 

Before casting their votes for the bill with only Democrats Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, and the substitute for Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, against, none of the committee members offers commentary on the legislation’s merits. 

The bill got big support from several lobbying groups, private citizens and organizations during the public hearing, including support from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Idaho, the Idaho Family Policy Center and Right to Life Idaho. Dell Chapel, a resident speaking on his own behalf, praised the legislation and Skaug’s move to stand up to pro-choice critics. 

“This is excellent,” Chapel said. “Idaho continues to elect extremely conservative people into our House here. We need to push as hard as we can push. We can’t give these people an inch. We need to protect our babies.”

Only one audience member spoke against the legislation during the public hearing. Cindy Thorngren said this bill would have the state intervening in local affairs and determining how they could prioritize their own work to keep their community safe. 

“I’m urging you to let entities set their own decisions on what is important for their people,” she said. “Yes laws have to be followed, but what you’re looking at is setting how they do what they need to do. Priorities are going to be different for different parts of the state.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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