It’s not often Democrats in Idaho cans say they have a majority when it comes to state government.
But a vacancy on the state Tax Commission has given Democrats an advantage they lack in the Legislature and so many other corners of government.
The commission is constitutionally required to have four members, with not more than two from the same party. In February, commission chairman Bob Geddes, a Republican, stepped down and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has yet to name a replacement, giving Democrats a 2-1 edge on the panel.
The state Tax Commission is charged with administering and enforcing the state’s tax laws, including income, sales and property taxes, and has more than 450 employees.
Geddes’ resignation also gave Democrats leadership on the commission, with David Langhorst, a former Democratic senator from Boise, serving as interim chairman.
Otter spokesman Jon Hanian says the governor is content to take his time and find the right person to appoint to the commission. Hanian also praised Langhorst’s performance and leadership since taking over.
The state Tax Commission is an executive agency with commissioners appointed by the governor, with the consent of the state Senate, serving six-year terms.
Geddes was appointed chairman in January of 2011. The panel’s previous chairman, Royce Chigbrow, was embroiled in scandal, including accusations that he used his position to help a friend in a dispute with a former business partner.
Chigbrow ultimately resigned, though an investigation didn’t lead to any charges after prosecutors said a statute of limitations had expired on one complaint.
The commission also was the target of a whistleblower report from a former tax auditor in 2008, charging that secret tax deals were letting influential taxpayers off the hook for millions. That complaint provoked other allegations from veteran commission workers.
Langhorst said his pitch to Otter for the chairman’s post focused on improving public confidence and employee morale.
He also said the delay in naming a new commissioner is not unusual. Langhorst talked with the governor about the position in December, the seat opened in March, and he was appointed in July.
Otter “likes to take the right amount of time, and it’s really not driven by an artificial deadline,” Hanian said. “I think clearly he wants to examine and make sure that we get the best person for the job.”