Can I Get a J.O.B. 

Democrats get in front on job creation

In a deserted committee hearing room in the east wing of the Idaho Capitol, Boise Democratic Rep. Bill Killen told Unda' the Rotunda a story from his time in law school.

"We were reading the minutes from a congressional hearing under Teddy Roosevelt, in 1913, I think ..." Killen said, deciding that it was actually 1916. At the time, Roosevelt was advocating for a graduated tax on estates. Killen recalled Roosevelt's intentions: "He said, 'if you don't do something about this, you're going to have a class structure like Britain's, but not based on nobility, based on wealth ...'

"You know, I read that the disparity between the top 5 percent of earners and the lowest is the highest it's ever been since 1928," Killen said.

The 60th session of the Idaho Legislature, which started off wallowing in declining budgets, is quickly becoming about jobs.

Republicans and Democrats alike have bills that focus on keeping small-business growth steady and helping new entrepreneurs get a leg up on the competition. The Democrats have even put together a package of bills specifically about job creation.

The Idaho Jobs and Opportunity Blueprint package includes six bills.

"When developing IJOBS, we talked to the governor, and we said, 'How do we get out of this?'" said Rep. John Rusche of Lewiston, the House minority leader. "We tried to look and see if we couldn't use our resources in a more effective manner. I'm a doctor. When patients came to me, they didn't just want a diagnosis. They wanted a diagnosis and a plan to get better."

Each IJOBS bill targets a specific aspect of growing small businesses, which according to Democrats, create over 80 percent of the new jobs in Idaho.

The Small Business Incubator and Jobs Act calls on the departments of Commerce and Labor to help incubators, which house small businesses in a central location, allowing them to share support, space and services during the critical start-up phase.

The Idaho Small Business Jobs Development Act provides a tax credit for small businesses that hire new employees.

Rep. Mike Moyle of Star, the House Majority leader, tells Unda' the Rotunda that this bill is essentially already on the books, but under a different name, and with slightly different numbers. The Small Employer Incentive Tax of 2005 offered a similar tax break to small employers but required a dedicated building.

"Some of the Democrats actually fought that bill when it came through," said Moyle. "They're playing a little political game by taking a law that's already around and changing the name."

But Moyle is working across the aisle on this bill, negotiating with Rusche on the logistics of the legislation and considering signing on as a sponsor. Still, it might not fly in the Senate, which is skeptical of adding tax credits.

"The problem with a tax credit is if you give a new jobs credit to a new business, there's this other guy that's been struggling all along to keep from firing people--he gets nothing," said Republican Sen. Brent Hill of Rexburg. "The new guy hires up the fired employee and gets a tax break."

The Idaho Small Business Venture Capital Investment and Jobs Act, H.B. 479, is slightly more complicated, offering large tax credits on non-interest earnings from venture capital investments in Idaho companies, which Democrats claim will create 1,000 new jobs at businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

"There might be something to that," admitted Hill. The plan will get a hearing in the House Revenue and Tax Committee.

Senate bills 1273, 1274 and 1275 are mired in Senate committees right now, perhaps awaiting jobs action on the House side. On the Senate side, there is the Grow Green Idaho Jobs Act, S.B. 1273, which seeks to foster innovation in the field of renewable energy from Idaho businesses. The 2010 Idaho Jobs Council Act, S.B. 1274, builds a task force of state and private sector leaders to focus on jobs through the legislative session.

And the Idaho Home Grown Business and Jobs Act, S.B. 1275, works with the departments of Labor and Commerce to provide market information to small Idaho businesses, to better compete with out-of-state endeavors.

Rep. Max Black, a Boise Republican, agreed with the Democrats' vision.

"I'm personally in favor of what they're trying to do with these jobs bills. In fact, I've got one I'm sponsoring myself," Black said.

The Idaho Entrepreneur Finance Act would create the "Idaho Entrepreneur Fund Corporation," with a five-member board of trustees appointed by the director of Finance. The fund would benefit Idaho businesses, presiding over $30 million in contingent tax credits.

And in another sign that jobs are spurring some bipartisan discussion, Moyle and Rusche introduced a bill together this week that would help Boise-based Western Aircraft by providing tax rebates to out-of-state owners who have their jets serviced here.

Why are they teaming up on this?

"We just talk," Rusche said, smiling. "We talk all the time."

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