House Business Committee approves ‘opportunity grants’ proposal

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[post_thumbnail] Jeff Sayer, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, testifies to the House Business Committee.

The House Business Committee has unanimously approved legislation that would fund “opportunity grants” for local communities across the state. The bill, according to the head of the Idaho Department of Commerce (IDOC), is intended to attract and retain new businesses to the state.

House Bill 100 now goes to the full House. The bill as now written would fund $3 million worth of grants to the cities, which are to be used for infrastructure enhancements.

“It’s important to note that in order for the fund to be effective, it needs a community match, and we’re asking local communities for a match,” noted Jeff Sayer, director IDOC. “Some communities can contribute infrastructure, some can contribute other resources. We want the state to be a partner with the local community.”

“It is not the appropriate role of government to determine what a reasonable job is, or what a reasonable wage is either,” testified Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. During open testimony, Hoffman said that “my daughter is 15, and making $12 or $15 is a very reasonable job for her. But for others a job paying $40 an hour is reasonable. It’s not for government to decide these things. We need the government to provide a level playing field where we all abide by the same rules, and then let the free market decide wages,” he stated.

“This is the new playing field that Idaho needs to play on,” Sayer told the committee. “If Idaho doesn’t do this, our neighboring states will be doing it.”

“I’m from a small community in rural Idaho that has very few resources,” noted Rep. Lucinda Agidius, R-Moscow. “So often we may have a business come to us where our natural resources are conducive to what they do, but our infrastructure just isn’t right. This bill will help, and that’s why I’m supporting it.”

“I’m normally inclined to view these things the way Mr. Hoffman has described it,” said Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian. “But it’s important to note that this bill doesn’t simply give away money to companies so they can then go out and hire people. This is funding for building out the infrastructure of local communities, and the benefits will continue even if the business leaves.”

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, asked Hoffman: “Do you believe that building infrastructure is an appropriate role of government?”

“Yes, that is an appropriate role of government,” Hoffman responded. “But that is not what this bill is about, entirely.”

Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, told Hoffman that “I appreciate the work of Idaho Freedom Foundation, and I believe because of the organization’s work our government is more transparent. Do you not see that this bill allows for increased transparency with the rewarding of grants?”

“I do see the transparency,” Hoffman replied. “However, the bill is primarily about manipulating the free market economy, and about the government picking winners and losers in the economy. Transparent manipulation of the free market is still manipulation of the free market.”

Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

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