Party-line vote sends property tax freeze bill to full House

The House Revenue & Taxation Committee has voted along party lines, 13-3, to approve HB 409, Rep. Mike Moyle’s one-year property tax freeze bill, sending it to the full House with a recommendation that it “do pass.” A motion to send it to the floor without recommendation, an uncommon move, failed, 2-14.

The Idaho Press reports Rep. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, said he hasn’t been hearing from constituents concerned about their taxes, but he’s been a lot from local officials concerned that the bill would do harm. “I don’t know, if we vote this down, is anything going to change?” he asked. “I think by doing this, it kind of helps push and force the hand here.”

Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, said he wishes the committee didn’t have this bill, and that instead, more work had been done on better solutions. However, he said, “Without moving something like this forward, we’re not going to see meaningful conversations happen.”

Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, said, “This bill is a sledgehammer approach on a complex issue. It won’t actually reduce property taxes. … I don’t see how we in Boise can take a reckless approach that’s going to affect crucial services, life and death services like emergency responders. … I hope that we can put the sledgehammer down. My hope is that then we can start to have serious conversations about property tax reforms that will actually reduce these property taxes.” She said, “Homeowners are getting slammed since we capped the homeowner’s exemption just as prices were starting to explode, particularly in my part of the state. … We just have to restore some balance.” She noted that Idaho hasn’t expanded the circuit breaker, the state-funded property tax break for the low-income elderly, since 2006.

Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton said, “I think that this is the pink elephant in the room. This is something we all know has been taking place. We’ve chosen, it seems, to turn our heads to it and not address it. I don’t think this is just a one-aspect solution. … I think there needs to be some changes and some drastic changes. … What I do know for certain is that the taxpayers in my area are hurting, they are bleeding, and they have been bleeding for quite some time. … They are having to leave their homes. They can’t afford them.”

Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby, said, “In Jefferson County we don’t have this problem.” It’s the Treasure Valley’s problem, he said. “I wish you guys would take care of your problem. … You guys have a problem, Ada needs to fix their problem. … Ada has a problem. Nampa has a problem. … I’m going to vote to move this forward. I’m going to go and I’m going to have to beg forgiveness from my commissioners and mayors, because they have done a great job, a lot better job than Caldwell and Nampa.”

Rep. Jake Ellis, D-Boise, said, “I know it’s an election year. We like to position this as a Democrat-Republican issue.” But he said he’s knocked on thousands of doors in his district, and it doesn’t just affect people from one party or another. “I truly believe that fiscal policy demands this conversation. I strongly believe that taxpayers are asking for this conversation,” Ellis said. He said local elected officials who know the most about what’s going on in their communities have asked the Legislature not to pass this bill. “Let’s have the conversation, but let’s do it in a responsible fiscal way in moving forward,” said Ellis, who proposed the no-recommendation motion. It received just two votes in support, from Ellis and Ricks.

After the vote, committee Chairman Gary Collins, R-Nampa, said, “Thank you, committee. It’s been a hard last couple of days. … I honestly believe the discussion is just beginning.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press

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