The Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee finally began hearing property tax reform bills today, nearly two months into the 2006 legislative session. But Jerry Brady, Democratic candidate for Idaho Governor, said the legislature is still failing to fully address homeowners’ calls for property tax fairness.
“Where is consideration of a $100,000 homeowner’s exemption?” Brady asked.
“Today, $l00,000 is equal to the $50,000 approved by voters in l982, adjusted for inflation. Let’s simply update what the people approved more than 20 years ago.
“Lawmakers respond to special interests, which fund their campaigns and think they will pay more if the property tax system is made fair again. Who is looking out for homeowners? Their property taxes are rising nine times faster than all other forms of property tax.
“When elected, I will enact real reform. The average homeowner will finally have an advocate in the governor’s office,” Brady said. He first advocated doubling the homeowner’s exemption last October.
If the $100,000 exemption were enacted, homeowners would save twice the amount they would under the $75,000 exemption now being considered by the legislature. Owners of a home valued at $200,000 would save $700 in Coeur d’Alene, $870 in Boise, $968 in Twin Falls, $1,000 in Nampa, and $1,150 in Pocatello.
Brady also warned against a bill now under consideration in the Senate, which would cut half the property tax portion that funds schools and replace it with a sales tax. That would actually increase net taxes paid by most Idaho homeowners. It would not make funding for schools more secure.
“The legislature would simply be playing bait-and-switch with taxes,” Brady said.
In addition, Brady is urging the legislature to repeal immediately the “developer’s discount” that allows landowners like Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to pay pennies per acre on prime real estate, while average homeowners continue to see their tax bills soar. Brady recently sent Valley County a check to pay Kempthorne’s overdue $9.73 property tax bill for 14 acres the governor owns near Tamarack Resort.
“Kempthorne owed less than $10 because he took advantage of the developer’s discount,” Brady said. “He vetoed a bill to eliminate the discount last year; then he talked about phasing it out over five years. I say we need to get rid of it now. Developers need to pay their fair share.”