Coeur d’Alene | Post Falls | Hayden | Rathdrum Chambers of Commerce
2022 Chamber Legislative Priorities:
Role and Mission of the Chamber of Commerce:
The primary mission of the Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Hayden and Rathdrum Chambers of Commerce is to advocate for an environment that ensures the health and prosperity of our communities through strong and healthy businesses. Together, we advocate for tax policies and a regulatory environment that supports opportunities for growth, job creation, and profitability which strengthens the economic vitality of our Communities and our region.
In late October of this year, the Joint Chambers surveyed their business Members and requested them rank their key Legislative priorities. The purpose of this Survey was to provide our Chambers and – through our Chambers – our elected State officials with specific information on the Legislative Priorities of our local businesses. A total of 161 Chamber Business members responded to that survey. Respondents ranged from small employers having from 1 to 19 employees, to large employers having 100 or greater employees. The key results of this Survey was that across the range of employers surveyed, their top three priorities were INFRASTRUCTURE, EDUCATON AND WORKFORCE TRAINING AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING. In addition our Members were united in their concern that our Legislators work together to eliminate policies that unnecessarily restrict the free flow of commerce and industry which is vital to the creation and retention of jobs, ensuring continuing economic prosperity. Our joint Chambers advocate for the elimination of restrictions on the ability of employers and businesses to manage and regulate their businesses and their employees. Government should neither restrict nor mandate how business owners in Idaho operate their businesses.
1. Education and Workforce Development
The Chambers fully support the recommendations of the Governor’s Taskforce on Higher Education that address the need to reduce costs & improve all educational pathways toward a meaningful career, from industry-based certifications to advanced degrees.
The Chambers continue to strongly support coordinated and focused efforts to better prepare our citizens for the State’s growing business workforce needs. These programs need to be oriented toward providing traditional students with career and technical education to prepare them for the workforce, and also providing results-oriented pathways for more mature members of our workforce to upgrade their skills and stay current on the changing needs of employers. In addition to the four-year plus degrees provided by our universities, the Chambers fully support the continued funding and expansion of workforce development programs and continued increased emphasis on career and technical education, and skills certification within our schools and Community Colleges. We also support expansion of apprenticeship programs. The Chambers support continued efforts regarding Reading Readiness initiatives and encourage pre-K funding exploration. We continue to support public schools, STEM education, mentorship initiatives and career advisory programs.
2. Affordable Housing
Communities throughout Idaho are experiencing a dramatic increase in rental rates and housing prices. This is impacting our ability to attract and retain employees, and is a growing concern for our businesses and directly impacts our efforts to foster economic development and job growth. Addressing this problem as demand for housing in our communities is impacted by growth and in-migration of those attracted by our State’s quality of life and personal freedoms is difficult. The existing programs operated by the Idaho Housing Finance Agency which provide below market financing to first time homebuyers should be expanded. Additionally, those IHFA and HUD programs which encourage and support the development of affordable multifamily rental housing should be fully funded and fully utilized. Additional programs which encourage partnerships with local non-profit housing providers and Community organizations to address the need for affordable housing should also be developed.
3. Infrastructure: Roads, Bridges, Sewer, Water and Broadband
We firmly believe that the State must explore and implement funding solutions that adequately address the pressing backlog of maintenance issues facing our State’s infrastructure. At the same time, We believe we must begin to fund new projects that are urgently required to address the continued growth that we are experiencing. In doing so we understand increased user fees as well as other new revenues must be addressed. We simply must invest more now or limit our ability to grow and negatively impact our State’s future prosperity.
4. Tax Issues
The Chambers continue to support a reduction in the tax burden on businesses in Idaho when fiscally responsible. Gradually lowering income tax rates and simplifying and reducing business personal property taxes will assist in the retention and expansion of existing businesses, as well as in recruitment of new businesses.
Residential property taxes have skyrocketed and the property tax burden on residential properties has dramatically expanded, with roughly 70% of property tax collections now being paid by residential properties. Among the solutions the Legislature should consider are the following:
- Replacing the current cap on the homeowner’s exemption with a formula that takes inflation into consideration.
- Require those leasing public property to pay a lessee’s tax equal to the assessed property tax on the leased property.
- Replace local property tax school “maintenance and operations” override levies with increased funding from state revenues.
- Distribute internet sales taxes now held in a “Tax Relief Fund” to local governments and the State General Fund.
- Reform Idaho’s impact fee law to make it truly fund the cost of growth including the cost of new schools, increased governmental operations including fire and police, and regional transportation improvements.
- Remove the artificial property tax caps imposed by the passage of HB 389. This directly impacts our Cities ability to maintain infrastructure.
Our Chambers continue to support passage of legislation granting local units of government authority to adopt local option taxes that are voter approved for specifically defined local public improvement projects, with cost estimates, timelines and sunset clauses. The ability to address local needs with local voter-approved tax revenues is critical to the continued growth and economic viability of our growing communities. The Chambers continue to support the use of the state’s Urban Renewal Law as an effective and flexible economic development tool that has proven essential in the expansion and improvement of public infrastructure, economic diversification and the expansion of employment.
As the State continues to seek acceptable and cost-effective solutions to reducing health care costs, reducing the cost of insurance coverage and expanding access to care for a greater number of citizens, we urge our Legislators to consider the use of Idaho’s tobacco tax monies as a source of healthcare revenue.
A tobacco tax should be considered as a user fee, compensating for the social and medical costs associated with the use of tobacco and vaping products. Idaho’s current tobacco tax is $1.24 below the national average and we currently do not tax vaping products. The Idaho Chapter of the American Cancer Association is proposing a significant ($1.50 per pack) increase, plus a similar tax on vaping products. Such an increase is estimated to generate an additional $60 million annually. We believe that Idaho should be at or near the national average of taxes currently charged on tobacco products, and that there is a clear nexus between medical costs directly attributable to diseases and conditions arising from the use of such products.
6. Natural Resources
Our Chambers continue to support policies that responsibly protect our environment and quality of life, while supporting a business climate that nourishes economic growth. Sustainable management of our natural resources benefits both industry and the health of our public lands.