BOISE — More elderly, low-income Idahoans would qualify for property tax assistance under legislation that passed the Idaho House on a 48-16 vote Friday.
House Bill 481 tries to fix a problem lawmakers created last year, when they added a new assessed value cap to the circuit breaker program.
The circuit breaker program offers as much as $1,500 in annual property tax relief for elderly and disabled individuals who earn less than about $32,000 per year.
In an effort to prevent people who own high-valued homes from receiving a taxpayer subsidy, the Legislature added a new requirement last year limiting the program to homes with an assessed value less than 125% of the county median.
Given the rising real estate prices statewide, that meant about 2,000 Idahoans who previously qualified for the circuit breaker will no longer be eligible.
Rep. Charlie Shepherd, R-Pollock, said HB 481 is an effort to repair that problem and “help some of our older, lifelong Idahoans with their property taxes.”
His bill raises the assessed value cap to 150% of the county median or $300,000, whichever is greater.
Shepherd noted there’s a competing Senate bill that raises the cap to 200%, with no minimum dollar amount.
The problem with that approach, he said, is that it benefits the urban areas at the expense of rural Idaho.
In Ada County, for example, the 200% threshold would cover homes worth more than $750,000 — whereas in Lewis County, it would only cover homes worth $287,000.
“So on one end, we’re helping people who have homes worth three-quarters of a million dollars, but on the other end we’re not helping people with homes (worth) less than $300,000,” Shepherd said. “I want to be cautious about making the same mistake we made last year by not giving this tax benefit to the people who need it the most.”
There was almost no floor debate on the legislation.
representative Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, and Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, opposed the measure. All other representatives from north central Idaho supported the bill.
HB 481 now moves on to the Senate for further action. It’s fate there is unclear, given that senators previously supported the alternative 200% proposal on a 34-0 vote.