In 2018, Idaho legislation passed over $ 200 million in income tax breaks. In fiscally conservative Idaho, this tax break was welcomed. In recent years we have seen a renewed call for tax breaks. But this time around, it’s not an income tax break that Idahoers are demanding. It is a property tax relief.
As county commissioners, we get it. Nobody likes property taxes. In growing areas of the state in particular, property taxes are becoming an even greater burden on homeowners and renters who pay property taxes indirectly through rent payments. We’ve heard time and again that Idahoers are grappling with the rapid rise in property taxes, in large part due to the soaring property values and unprecedented growth. Many of the services that counties provide are required by law and / or the state constitution. This means that counties cannot rely on budget cuts alone as a solid tax break policy. This does not mean that no real estate tax relief can be granted. We are confident that proposals will be made here to ease property tax.
Currently, sheriffs are only allowed to charge a $ 5 administration fee for driver’s licenses. In reality, it costs the sheriff’s office closer to $ 8 per license to cover the cost. Real estate taxpayers get stuck and grant the licensee a grant. The legislature could remedy this by increasing the fee for driving licenses. Property taxes should not have to subsidize services that should be paid for directly by users.
More state funding for public defense and district courts could be used to offset property taxes. While the state provides some funding for these services, property taxpayers must supplement these in order to maintain these mandated services.
The ability for counties to introduce a local option tax could also result in significant land tax relief, especially in growing areas and areas where a significant portion of tourism is incurred. Currently, only resort communities with fewer than 10,000 residents are allowed to levy local option taxes. Granting this authority would allow counties to diversify revenues so that we are less reliant on property taxes as the main source of income.
Re-indexing the homeowner’s exemption could also bring homeowners significant property tax relief. Legislators indexed the homeowner’s exemption in 2006. In 2016 they removed this index, even though house values have risen rapidly. The real estate tax burden shifted significantly on the back of the homeowner. Re-indexing the homeowner’s exemption would provide immediate relief to many homeowners hardest hit by rising property taxes. Better access to the breaker tax relief program for those who may face the greatest financial difficulties could meet more immediate needs of taxpayers. This could particularly help older people with limited incomes.
Finally, Governor Little recently proposed a historic tax cut of over $ 400 million. Income tax breaks would be nice, but most Idahoers don’t ask for it. We support the use of online sales tax collections, which are currently falling at a record rate in the Tax Relief Fund, to achieve significant property tax relief.
We urge the Legislature and Governor of Idaho Little to work with us as your local partners and to remember that we are County Commissioners on the ground. We hear from our voters every day. We are homeowners too. We strive to balance our counties’ financial needs with property tax breaks that many Idahoers desperately need. Please help us achieve significant property tax relief while ensuring adequate funding for the numerous services that the districts are responsible for providing.
Dozens of county chairs from across the state have signed this guest opinion, including Kendra Kenyon from Ada County and Pamela White and Keri Smith from Canyon County. The full list of signatories can be found at idahopress.com.