With $140,000 On The Line, Idaho Girl Scouts Try Their Hand At Lobbying

By Emilie Ritter Saunders

Girl Scouts across the country are getting amped up to sell as many boxes of their famed Samoas, Thin Mints, and Tag-a-longs as they possibly can. They’ve got about a month to close the deal with neighbors, friends and grandmothers.

At a recent cookie event near Boise – think pep rally, Girl Scout-style – more than 100 kids, some as young as kindergarteners, donned their badged-sashes and met at a middle-school cafeteria.

They learned how to count change, fill out order forms, and had they a little fun too….

JIGGALO SONG: “Hey Echo, hey what? Show us how you jiggalo, my hands are high my feet are low and this is how I giggalo – her hands are high her feet are low and this is how she jiggalos…jig-alo, jig-jig-alo-o”

The Girl Scouts of Silver Sage, that’s the council in southern Idaho, know all about selling cookies door-to-door, and now, they’re learning about state tax policy.

The sales tax to be exact.

Saunders: “Do you know what a sales tax is?”

Cosette: “Hmmmm…sorta. It’s like taxes?...That’s all I know about it…”

Hailey Murray: “I kind of know what sales tax is…”

That last voice is 12-year-old Girl Scout Hailey Murray.

Murray: “If you buy something from the store and it’s a dollar, you have to pay an additional 6 cents. I kind of think it’s a downer because instead of paying a dollar you have to pull out another 6 cents.”

Murray isn’t the only one who thinks it’s a downer. The Scouts in Idaho are lobbying state lawmakers to get rid of the state’s 6 percent sales tax on Girl Scout cookies. The tax here amounts to 22 cents per box.

To change the policy, the Girl Scouts will have to go through Gary Collins, District 13, Seat B.  State Representative Collins’ committee is the gatekeeper for all new tax exemptions.  And judging by the four boxes of Girl Scout cookies on his desk, he’s well aware of the issue.

Collins: “I’ve been here for 12 years and I’ve been looking for that graft, they talk about politicians getting – I guess that’s what you’d call that. Four boxes of cookies. And I haven’t ate any of them either.”

Collins plans to let his committee at least see the proposal to exempt Idaho Girl Scout cookies from the sales tax – but he doesn’t know if it will go further than that.

You see, the Scouts in Idaho sell about $2.5 million worth of cookies each year, $140,000 of that goes to the state.
These Scouts learn how to count change for their future customers. [Emilie Ritter Saunders]
Photo: A Girl Scout cookie rally is practical too. These Scouts learn how to count change for their future customers. [Emilie Ritter Saunders | StateImpact Idaho] 

Some Girl Scouts set up shop in the echoey state Capitol rotunda on a recent day off from school.

The Scouts handed out free boxes of cookies to lawmakers and answered questions. Little did they know they’d become tax policy experts and lobbyists this year.

While the girls did their part to sway legislators, Julie Hart, a professional lobbyist working for free on behalf of Idaho’s Girl Scouts, looked on….

Hart: “With $140,000, what could the state do for these girls, or what could Girl Scouts do for these girls?” I think the answer to that question is Girl Scouts will be able to do a lot more for these girls than the state could.”

At the cookie rally, some of the Girl Scouts have a few ideas on how they could spend that $140-grand that gets paid in taxes each year. Things like service projects, troop camping trips, and donating to the local food bank.

Hailey Murray says some fun stuff too.

Murray: “Well, I think you could probably like buy millions of cookies – and then maybe buy a Girl Scout house, or Girl Scout items like clothing or something – you could really buy anything.”

Idaho’s Girl Scouts will have to wait and see if their lobbying efforts pay off.

They’re not the only fundraiser that’s taxed here. Popcorn you buy from Boy Scouts, that’s taxed too, along with all other sales of magazines or food.

But then again, nothing tastes quite like a Thin Mint or a Samoa.

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