As was first reported by IdahoReporter.com Tuesday, Gov. Butch Otter named former Senate Pro Tem Bob Geddes of Soda Springs to the oversight board of the Idaho State Tax Commission.
At a meeting in Otter's ceremonial office, the governor said appointing the former Senate leader to the tax commission will help instill public trust in an agency that has been marred by scandal in past months. Royce Chigbrow, the former chairman, resigned earlier this month amid allegations he used his position to help clients of his son's accounting firms get special tax deals.
Otter says that Geddes is the right man to reform the agency. "Bob has great respect in the Legislature, I think he has great respect all over Idaho," said Otter. "I have found that wherever I go, there is a high level of confidence that not only comes from both sides of the rotunda but both sides of the aisle.”
But while many in the media and even the Legislature are calling for reform of the tax commission, Geddes isn’t even certain of the location of his new office. Even so, he does have some goals for this time with the agency. "We want to make sure that as people come before the tax commission, that they are treated with respect, that they are treated fairly," said Geddes.
First, however, he must find he must find his new offices. "I’ve never set foot in the tax commission offices," joked the former senator.
Geddes' former colleagues had nothing but congenial things to say about the new chairman. "He has truly been a statesman," said Senate Pro Tem Brent, Hill, R-Rexburg, the man Geddes endorsed for the pro tem spot last month. "He has been a resource for each of us."
Alluding to his popularity in the Legislature's upper chamber, GOP Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, Idaho Falls, said Geddes will gain easy passage when his appointment comes before the legislators. "I actually think there’s a good chance the Senate might confirm him," joked Davis.
The appointment becomes effective immediately, but the Senate must approve the pick. It is likely that his confirmation would come before the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee.
But while the appointment to the tax commission will mean news offices and new responsibilities for the former senator, it will also bring something else for Geddes: a bigger paycheck.
As a senator, Geddes earned nearly $16,000 in pay annually, plus health benefits. On the board, the senator will earn about $85,000 annually, plus benefits.
But that’s not the only way in which the senator would benefit from the move. The Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho bases monthly pension payments on the highest rate of pay a worker earns in a 42-month consecutive span, meaning that if Geddes remains in the post for 42 months, his retirement benefits will be spiked thanks to the larger salary.
That would mean big money for the former senator, even as much as an extra $2,500 each month upon retirement.
If Geddes had simply retired from the Senate, his 15 years of service in the Legislature would earn him a monthly pension payment of $368. If Geddes serves in the tax commission post for the required time span and then retires, he would likely receive a monthly payment amount to $2,900.
As for his old Senate seat, Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, a member of the House in Geddes’ District 31, is jockeying for the appointment. The District 31 GOP central committee must submit three names to Otter for consideration, from which the governor will make his selection.
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