We can’t say we are surprised to find we are in the middle of the legislature without an Idahoan property tax exemption. The legislature seems to be busy consolidating and expanding its power over cities and citizens if it could use existing instruments for property tax solutions.
It’s not too late for Idaho lawmakers to come up with a good temporary solution to lowering property taxes and then begin a deeper examination of the tax law in the next session. We cannot wish away growth – and the challenges that come with it – by pretending that it is not happening.
The only half-hearted effort to deal with property taxes is a bill that would prevent cities from saving money or completely taxing new buildings and annexations. We consider the punishment of local tax administrators ridiculous and contrary to the legislature’s desire for fiscal conservatism. We are also confused why lawmakers are so opposed to the popular and best solution to give Idahoans a break.
Removing the homeowner exemption cap would be the quickest, easiest way to get money into people’s pockets without handcuffing local governments as they respond to rapid population growth.
This growth shouldn’t punish the people who have lived here for decades or even generations. Growth should be self-sustaining, and to ensure it does so, local governments must continue to have the ability to fully tax new buildings and annexations, and to allow school districts to impose impact fees.
These school fees would be paid by the developers for each newly built housing unit. This strategy would provide tax breaks to existing homeowners and provide a consistent source of funding for school districts that need to expand.
When a district needs a new middle school due to a new subdivision of 600 houses, the developers and new residents who have that need should pay the bill, not the widow, who paid for her house in 1995 and lives on a steady income. We long for a day when school elections are only necessary in very rare cases. Educators have better things to do with their time than having to become electives.
Impact fees for schools are definitely not a perfect solution. These fees are passed on to the consumer in the form of higher house prices – which definitely doesn’t help the affordable housing issue. However, this is where the legislature comes into play.
Our lawmakers – elected officials who work for us, the people – should spend the next year watching other states ‘growth advances and how their tax laws serve their states’ interests. What have other states done that have worked or not? How can other ideas and guidelines be tailored to our state?
We understand that growth is largely an “urban problem” right now, but make no mistake, it could end up affecting smaller communities.
It is imperative that we address this issue now, not in 10 years.
We urge lawmakers to give Idahoans a break this year and spend the next year gathering information for next year’s tax reform.
The editorials are based on the majority opinion of the Idaho Press editorial team, composed of members of the community, Rod Gramer, Rosie Delgadillo Reilly, Tracy Watt, Nicholas O’Bryant, and Pat Klocke, and Idaho Press President and Editor Matt Davison. Idaho Press editor-in-chief Holly Beech and city editor Tess Fox are non-voting members. The views expressed in the editorial do not necessarily imply the unanimous approval of all board members.