Property tax bill advances to Idaho Senate despite bipartisan criticism

Fire officials speak out against the bill: ‘This bill … will result in loss of life’

By: - May 4, 2021 8:30 pm

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R, Star) during a Ways & Means Committee hearing at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Despite criticism over the speed of the process, a bill aimed at property tax relief passed the Idaho House of Representatives and made its way out of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee on Tuesday. It was introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday.

The bill increases the homeowner’s exemption from $100,000 to $125,000 and includes several other provisions that would provide tax relief to commercial property owners.

Legislators on both sides of the House’s political aisle debated House Bill 389, saying the homeowner’s exemption didn’t go far enough to provide meaningful relief. The House voted 48-20 to pass it.

Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, acknowledged while presenting the bill that it doesn’t solve the problem but it does provide relief.

“It will help most taxpayers, but it’s an ongoing conversation, and there is more to be done,” Moyle said.

In addition to the increased homeowner’s exemption, the bill:

  • Reduces property taxes for homeowners who qualify for the state’s circuit breaker program by increasing the benefit from $1,320 to $1,500 maximum.
  • Increases the personal property exemption – which affects businesses – from $100,000 to $250,000.
  • Exempts transient personal property from taxation, which applies to construction, logging and mining equipment that travels across the state.
  • Creates an 8% cap on property tax increases that account for new growth in any budget year. By statute, each taxing district is allowed to increase its property tax budget by 3% in a given year, plus a budget amount for new growth.
  • Delays a new construction project’s market value from being added to new growth calculations until after construction is completed.

The bill is of particular concern to legislators and public officials from Canyon County and the city of Nampa. Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, voted against the bill in part because many city officials and fire department staff have told him they are against it because it will be detrimental to their budgets because districts would not receive as much funding from taxes on new construction. 

“I hope that you took the time to check with your county clerk and assessor, commissioners, and city councilman, but you probably didn’t because you have not had time,” Skaug said, referring to how quickly the bill has moved through the Legislature. “Our fire chief is sitting in the (House) gallery … He’s not really a politician, but he’s been over here a lot of because of these proposed tax bills. This bill will not provide meaningful tax relief to our homeowners. Not at all. They won’t feel it.”

Rudy Rudebaugh, chairman of the Idaho State Fire Commissioners Association, told the Senate committee his organization is strongly against the bill, and said members wrote a letter to Moyle in early April asking to be part of the process of crafting the bill and received no response. But, he added, the Idaho Association of Realtors was part of the process.

“These are not city fire departments, these are fire districts,” Rudebaugh said. “Our budgets are funded on new construction. This bill as written will result in loss of life and preservation of property, by hampering those responsible for providing emergency services.”

The bill passed out of the Senate committee on a 6-3 vote, with Rep. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, voting no. Lakey also voted no on a property tax bill that failed by one vote in the Senate earlier in the session after many city and county officials said it would be harmful to their budgets.

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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.