Opinion: Legislature once again gives tax breaks to the rich

Every year Boise State University releases a survey of Idahoans’ legislative priorities. The top five priorities for 2022 include:

— Education.

— Jobs and the economy.

— Health care.

— Housing.

— The environment.

Noticeably missing from the top five priorities — as it has been for the last several years — is taxes. The people of Idaho are well aware that we need to make investments in our state if we want to truly reach our potential.

Yet the first thing that passed the Idaho House this legislative session was a massive tax break for the wealthiest 1% in the state. According to an analysis by the nonprofit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, those making $557,000 or more would get $13,254 in total benefits. However, Idahoans making between $26,000 and $44,000 would see total benefits of $127. I, personally, fall into the income range that, according to the analysis, says my total benefits would be $1,142.

Most Idahoans, though, can probably expect a benefit of between $77 and $300, depending on their situation and dependents.

On top of that, the corporate tax in Idaho would be cut from 6.5% to 6%. Rather than championing a tax change that would benefit Idaho’s working families, such as broadening the tax brackets, the Legislature is just cutting taxes for corporations.

None of this, of course, addresses the property tax mess the Legislature made when it changed the exemption. So, as Idaho residential homeowners have been increasingly bearing the brunt of this property tax policy, while commercial concerns only account for about 30%, the Legislature continues to gift wrap breaks for the wealthiest while leaving most people to scrape by as best they can in a state that has some of the lowest wages in the nation.

These tax cuts for the top don’t actually provide any sort of real economic support or represent an investment in Idaho and its people. In fact, various analyses over the last three decades from a variety of sources ranging from the Congressional Budget Office to the University of Chicago find that cutting taxes for the wealthy is one of the most ineffective ways to boost the economy.

Instead, providing relief to middle- and lower-income earners is more likely to provide economic gains that help more people, rather than a select few who don’t need the help anyway. Additionally, investing in early childhood education, creating an environment where people can earn higher wages and providing a safety net are all more likely to create safer and more prosperous communities.

But here we are. Once again. They’ll spin a story about “historic” budgets for education and infrastructure, but it only feels big now because they’ve starved us for so long. Continually playing catch up because our “leaders” refuse to invest in Idaho is not “historic.”

Our coffers are overflowing because the Legislature has preferred giving tax breaks to their cronies to making investments in Idaho’s future. It’s time for this to stop and for Idaho’s elected officials to make real investments in our communities.

Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized financial expert, speaker and writer. She is the state committeewoman for the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee