Idaho Democrats rolled out a half-dozen job creation and economic development bills Tuesday, saying this needs to be the primary focus of the 2012 session.
“The Legislature must play a critical and active role in returning prosperity to our communities,” said Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise. “We see that as our obligation and we're certainly hearing that from our constituents.”
The first step is to invest in Idaho's people, he said, which means restoring cuts in the public schools and higher education budgets.
The six job bills go a step further by offering tax incentives to encourage investment and facilitate the supply of capital.
“We can't create all the jobs we need – but we can create an environment where prosperity is possible,” Cronin said. “That's what government does.”
The six bills include:
A 50 percent tax credit for new investment in agricultural processing equipment. The intent is to encourage farmers and cooperatives to replace the value-added processing capacity that's been lost over the years, enhance exports and keep more dollars in Idaho.
A “finder's fee” for businesses that persuade their suppliers or partners to relocate to Idaho. Rather than rely exclusively on the Department of Commerce or economic development agencies to recruit new companies, the idea here is to reward private firms that help attract new business to the state. This bill offers a $500 tax credit for each new job created by the relocating firm; the jobs must last for two years.
Authorization for a new committee to study whether Idaho could benefit from the creation of a state “partnership” bank. Modeled after a similar program in North Dakota, the bank would issue bonds and use the money to spur economic growth. The intent is to work partner with community lenders and expand the availability of capital.
Allowing state agencies to award contracts to Idaho firms that bid up to 5 percent more than the lowest out-of-state bidder.
Establishing a revolving loan fund to provide loans of up to $35,000 to new businesses.
Requiring public disclosure of corporate tax incentives – including the amount and purpose of the incentive and number of jobs created – to ensure transparency and accountability.
“We want to ensure that every dollar we spend on economic development and job creation truly puts people back to work, and that taxpayers are getting a good return on their economic development investment,” Cronin said.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, encouraged Republican lawmakers to work with his caucus to improve the bills and send them on to the governor.
“We know we (Democrats) aren't going to be driving the agenda,” Rusche said. “But we believe it's important to have the discussion on how to replace the missing jobs in Idaho and build an economy that produces long-term living wage jobs for Idaho families.”