Gas prices, property taxes, and inflation. Is a special session on the table?
by Logan Finney and Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
Democratic lawmakers are calling on Gov. Brad Little to convene a special legislative session to implement a 6-month gas tax holiday.
“Taking this action in the coming weeks would give everyday Idahoans relief at the gas pump totaling 32 cents per gallon,” the letter reads. “When Idahoans are struggling and the state sits on a significant budget surplus of $1.3 billion, this type of tax relief is helpful, timely and affordable.”
According to their press release, Democrats are proposing just one bill to implement a 6-month gas tax holiday or equivalent rebate. (You can view the bill at the bottom of this article.) The press released estimated the cost to the state at $180 million.
As of Wednesday morning, the average gas price in Idaho is $5.025, according to AAA Idaho. Camas County reported the highest gas prices, at $5.399 a gallon.
“My constituents are feeling the pinch,” Sen. David Nelson (D-Moscow) said in a press release. “They are paying more to drive to work and the grocery store. And when they get there the groceries are more expensive.”
Under the Idaho Constitution, only the governor may convene a special session, though lawmakers have proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to call itself back into session. That proposal will go before voters in the November general election.
Little responded to the request Wednesday afternoon with the following statement:
“Governor Little received the letter from Idaho Democrats, and he is reviewing the request.
Governor Little and Republicans in the Idaho Legislature this year championed immediate and ongoing historic tax relief for working individuals and families to help offset soaring inflation and gas prices – problems created by President Joe Biden and the Democrats’ mishandling of the economy. Every single Idaho Democrat legislator voted against the ongoing tax cuts and immediate tax rebates just a few months ago.
Governor Little clearly stated last month he plans to cut taxes even further with the state’s budget surplus to build on three straight years of unprecedented tax relief for Idahoans.”
Idaho Reports has asked if the governor is considering any other tax relief options other than the Democrats’ proposal.
Financial pressures for citizens; Less so for the state
Gas prices aren’t the only financial issue Idahoans face right now. Throughout the state, residents are seeing increases of up to 60 percent on their property values, which will lead to a rise in property tax bills.
Idaho has a 50 percent homeowner’s exemption, though it’s capped at $125,000. That means if a property is valued at more than $250,000, the taxpayer is responsible for the rest of the value.
Meanwhile, Idaho once again has a massive budget surplus as it nears the end of its fiscal year, with a projected $1.3 billion extra in the general fund.
On Tuesday, Idaho Reports spoke to House Speaker Scott Bedke about whether he had heard any discussion about a special session to address increased property taxes and inflation, either through policy changes or one-time tax rebates for Idahoans.
“I’ve been in zero conversations about a special session to address that at this point,” said Bedke, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.
Though he hadn’t yet heard of any plans, Bedke didn’t rule out the potential.
“Maybe they would. I mean obviously, it’s a growing problem,” he said, adding many lawmakers are hesitant to address property tax issues with general fund dollars.
Nationwide, other legislatures have proposed other relief options, including reducing the grocery tax and one-time rebates.
Updated Wednesday afternoon with Gov. Little’s statement.
Logan Finney | Associate Producer
Logan Finney is a North Idaho native with a passion for media production and boring government meetings. He grew up skiing, hunting and hiking in the mountains of Bonner County and has maintained a lifelong interest in the state’s geography, history and politics. Logan joined the Idaho Reports team in 2020 as a legislative session intern and stayed to cover the COVID-19 pandemic. He was hired as an associate producer in 2021 and they haven’t been able to get rid of him since.