News (USA)

Idaho tax bill advances despite gay marriage objections by Republicans

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted Tuesday to bring the state’s tax code in line with federal rules, despite facing objections from two lawmakers who argued the state should not be recognizing same-sex marriages.

The Idaho Legislature usually syncs the state’s tax code with the federal version each year to make it easier for residents and businesses to do their taxes, as well as avoid having to keep separate accounting books to track the different rules. The Idaho Tax Commission makes the conformity request at the beginning of Idaho’s legislative session to ensure Idaho’s definition of adjusted gross income matches the Internal Revenue Code.

However, Republican Reps. Ron Nate, of Rexburg, and Stephen Hartgen, of Twin Falls, both said Tuesday that Idaho should not conform with the Internal Revenue Service because Idaho’s constitution still includes language banning gay marriage.

“If we here in Idaho think that the laws or even the ruling of the Supreme Court is not constitutional, then we have an obligation and a duty to defend our state Constitution against those infringements,” Nate said.

In 2014, Idaho lawmakers approved requiring same-sex married couples who filed joint federal returns to recalculate their federal taxes as singles before filing their state returns. Later that year, Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hartgen says he believes President Donald Trump will appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court — which currently has a vacancy — to overturn the legality of gay marriage.

“The landscape has changed,” he said.

The nation’s highest court legalized gay marriage on a 5-4 vote. It would at least take two, not one, new justices to reverse the court’s previous decision.

This is the second consecutive year that the annual IRS conformity bill, generally a mundane update, has caused conflict inside the House chamber because of the gay marriage compliance section. The legislation only passed last year because House GOP leadership drafted two paragraphs into the bill that noted that Idaho still had a gay marriage ban inside its state Constitution, but that it’s since been invalidated.

“I appreciate your yes vote and the fact that we maybe shouldn’t continue to live in the past,” said House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise. “This is something that was decided many years ago. We’ve moved forward, it’s the law of the land.”

HB 26 now goes to the House floor for approval.

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