Potts approaches first legislative session

Tony Potts was selected to replace Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls. Potts will represent Legislative District 33 in the upcoming session of the Idaho Legislature. Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com

State Sen. Tony Potts is looking forward to his first legislative session. The Idaho Falls Republican was named by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to replace former Sen. Bart Davis after Davis was confirmed as Idaho’s U.S. attorney.

Potts said he knows he has big shoes to fill.

“Bart Davis served faithfully for 20 years, and that’s just phenomenal,” Potts said.

Potts said he plans to uphold the Senate’s tradition of “gentlemanly disagreements” and debate that focuses on policy rather than personality.

Potts was a somewhat unlikely candidate for the job. He was the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee’s third pick, after Chairman Mark Fuller and Rep. Bryan Zollinger, but Otter passed over those two and opted for Potts without explanation. Potts first sought to be elected a Republican precinct committeeman but got “obliterated” running as a write-in, he said.

Two years later, he won in an uncontested race. He also made an unsuccessful run for Bonneville County Commission, losing to Commissioner Bryon Reed. He later threw his name in the hat to replace County Clerk Ron Longmore, but Clerk Penny Manning was tapped instead.

But Potts said he feels called to public service.

“Over the last four or five years, I’ve felt a greater need to be involved in what’s happening in our state,” he said. “… I thought it was a great chance to go and represent the people of Idaho Falls, and that’s truly my goal. My goal is not to go and run my agenda, although I have principles that my life is built on.”

Potts said those principles include less government, lower taxes, protection of property rights and religious freedom.

Potts said he wants to reduce regulatory red tape and cut corporate income taxes to help small businesses.

“We really need to focus on making sure it’s easy for small businesses to do business in Idaho, in an ethical way, … and businesses in general,” he said.

Potts said corporate income taxes are a relatively small part of Idaho’s overall revenue, and the Legislature should ask the question of whether it might be better to eliminate them entirely.

Corporate income taxes raised about $223 million last year, accounting for about 11 percent of state income tax revenue and about 5 percent of overall state tax revenue, according to a recent report by the Idaho Tax Commission.

“I think it’s easy for us to see a company being successful and feel like they should then be more responsible for providing for the budget,” Potts said. “I think we need to be careful with that. Robin Hood is not the way we want to run our government. We don’t want to be robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, as a rule.”

Potts said he opposes special tax breaks to attract new businesses because they can be unfair to existing businesses that compete with them without the tax break, though he said more fact-finding is necessary to see how prevalent that problem is.

Potts also said he’s interested in legislation that would change the way landlord/tenant disputes are handled, though he declined to give details.

“We may see some bills on how the process works between tenants and landlords to make sure that both individuals are protected,” he said. “Obviously, that’s close to my heart because I have a property management business.”

Potts said he’s skeptical of a “dual waiver” proposal developed by the Department of Insurance and the Department of Health and Welfare which would extend Affordable Care Act subsidies to those in the Medicaid gap and transfer some of the highest-cost individuals onto the Medicaid system. He said there are indications, given at a recent meeting with medical lobbyists, that the size of the gap is shrinking, and so the problem may be solving itself.

“I hesitate to throw money that looks like it’s already taking care of itself,” he said.

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.