Idaho leads the nation in year-over-year job growth, and many of those new jobs actually pay well, with good benefits.
Yet one of the keys to that success story is under attack by conservative critics like the Idaho Freedom Foundation.
The Tax Reimbursement Incentive is a weapon Idaho’s Department of Commerce has wielded since former Director Jeff Sayer pushed for it two years ago. Born with the idea that Idaho needs to compete with neighboring states like Utah to attract new businesses and encourage existing businesses to expand, the tax incentive program has drawn the ire of people who believe it unbalances the playing field — that it unfairly helps newcomers compete against established Idaho businesses.
That was the issue in March when Employers Resource Management Company of Boise sued Commerce Director Megan Ronk, challenging the constitutionality of TRI. Fortunately for all Idahoans, Fourth District Judge Samuel Hoagland dismissed the suit because the plaintiffs didn’t show TRI had actually hurt them; they were simply afraid it might. Judge Hoagland also hinted at the political motivation that fueled the lawsuit.
“Fundamentally, courts avoid wading into political issues which are better left for the other two branches of the government which are better equipped to address,” he wrote.
Why are we so supportive of TRI? Because it was structured so sensibly, and because it works.
If you’re an existing Idaho business or an outside business seeking to move to Idaho or expand here, TRI offers a tax credit of up to 30 percent for a maximum of 15 years. The credit applies to income, sales and payroll taxes paid to the state, but it’s a reimbursement — companies qualifying for the program must pay their taxes in full each year before receiving the incentive. They also must prove each year that they’re complying with the program’s rules, which include creating a minimum number of new jobs that pay at or above the average wages in that county. Does it create unfair advantages? We think not. Any company can qualify if it adds at least 20 new jobs that pay well in rural counties, and 50 in urban counties.
Kootenai County has benefitted tremendously, with some new companies moving in and some existing companies growing. Without TRI, our economic development experts insist, Post Falls probably would not have landed the Orgill distribution center earlier this month. That project will result in 138 new jobs paying an average wage of $41,200 — $68.7 million annually in projected wages. Nor would AGC AeroComposites in Hayden benefit the entire region with 134 new jobs at an average wage of $33,500, or Project Steel 2 of Hayden with 28 new jobs averaging $41,100 in annual wages, or Project Lincoln in Post Falls with 60 new jobs boasting an average wage of $51,200, or ATC Manufacturing in Post Falls with 225 new jobs paying an average of $44,000 annually.
According to the Commerce Department, in just two years, TRI is responsible for helping create 4,737 new jobs in Idaho, with $2.1 billion in new payroll.
All those new jobs are generating a projected $216.7 million in state revenues, which is a 400 percent return on the incentives provided to companies.
That’s a great bottom line for every Idahoan.
Readers can go to the following site to see all the TRI projects approved so far: http://commerce.idaho.gov/approved-tri-projects