Updated: Jul 21
The Idaho Senate has followed the House and passed a major property tax cut bill. It may be short term relief, but questions remain about the long term fix.
Lawmakers admitted compromises had to be made, and they didn't necessarily like everything in the bill.
"This is a merging of two ideas," Senator Doug Ricks said before the 32-3 vote. "It hasn't been an easy process to negotiate. This will be the largest property tax relief in Idaho state history."
The bill will provide immediate relief. Sen. Ricks says the average property tax bill will see 15-20% savings.
HB 292 is broken into three years:
2023 - Up to $355,000,000
2024 - Up to $272,000,000
2025 - Up to $332,000,000
Most of the relief in the first year comes from the state's general fund surplus.
In the second year, 4.5% of what the state collects from sales taxes would be diverted to lower property taxes via a credit. Finally, the bill increases the number of people who would
qualify for the state's property tax relief program (also known as the "circuit breaker.")
Homeowners will know where the reductions come from. The legislation says property tax bills will indicate the savings with text that reads “tax relief appropriated by the Legislature.”
The measure also removes the March date that school districts can use for elections, meaning that elections can only be held in May, August and November.
Part of the legislation also distributes money from the state to school districts for the purposes of lowering school bond and levy burdens.
Property tax relief has been built into Idaho’s property tax system for decades. Beginning in 1980, homeowners received a property tax exemption up to 50% of the value of their home, originally capped at $10,000. This exemption was deducted from the assessed value of the home, while the remainder was then the taxable value of the property. In 2006, Idaho began to rely upon the Federal Housing Price Index to set the exemption amount for property taxes and this number fluctuated with the housing market. In 2016, the Idaho legislature voted to cap the property tax exemption at $100,000 (which later increased to $125,000).
These changes may help reduce the cost for property owners in the short term, but will they stop overspending at the local level in the long run? It remains to be seen, but some state officials have laid some of the blame of higher property taxes on local governments that continue to spend, and the taxpayers who keep approving new local tax measures.