It's official: Gov. Butch Otter named longtime state Sen. Robert Geddes to chair the State Tax Commission.
And after 16 years in the state Senate, including 10 as Senate president pro tem, Geddes conceded he has a "lot to learn" about his new post. And the Soda Springs Republican says he will go in with "no preconceived notions" about whether the embattled commission needs an overhaul.
Geddes is joining the commission after its former chairman resigned amidst controversy. Royce Chigbrow, a former campaign treasurer to Otter, resigned Jan. 7, after Associated Press stories said Chigbrow had intervened on behalf of a friend and on behalf of clients of his son's accounting firm.
Several current and former tax commission employees have criticized the commission's use of confidential settlements to resolve tax disputes, suggesting the deals favor well-connected taxpayers, at the public's expense.
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, a Rexburg Republican and CPA, said the recent controversy has "tarnished" the commission's integrity. But other speakers at a news conference this afternoon echoed Geddes' wait-and-see approach to reform.
"We are really taking a go-slow approach," said House Revenue and Taxation Committee Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot.
Otter said he will continue discussing reforms with legislative leaders — but he said he is prepared to consider changes to the commission's structure, or simply keep the status quo in place.
The commission is governed by four commissioners, who are appointed by the governor. No more than two members can belong to one party.
Geddes will step down from the Senate and from his job at Monsanto. While he will begin work immediately, his former Senate colleagues will have the chance to vote on his confirmation. Deadpanned Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls: "I actually think there's a good chance that the Senate might confirm him."