House introduces long-awaited property tax bill
by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports
With just a few weeks left before leadership hopes to wrap up the session, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee released a long-awaited property tax relief package on Thursday. The bill is the product of weeks of negotiation between tax leaders in both chambers to combine components from legislation printed earlier this session.
“It seems like it’s been a long time coming,” said Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, who presented House Bill 292 for introduction. “We’re going to reduce taxes for everybody who owns property in Idaho.”
Monks, the House tax committee chairman, said that the lion’s share of relief will go to Idaho residents who receive the homeowners exemption.
“About two thirds of it will go directly to homeowners,” Monks said. “It will show up as a credit on their tax bill they get every year.”
The bill does not make any adjustments to the homeowners exemption itself, but it would relax income and home value requirements to allow more people to qualify for the circuit breaker program for disabled and elderly people.
The other component of the package would allocate state funds to help pay for school bonds and levies.
Monks said the bill would distribute approximately $100 million each year to school districts based on their average daily attendance, which they would have to use for that year’s bond and levy payments. After existing bonds and levies are addressed, districts could use the funding for future construction or save it to secure future bonds instead of using property taxes.
Monks credited House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star; Senate tax chairman Sen. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg; and Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, for their work on the package.
At an Idaho Press Club event on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said her caucus had not been part of the discussions.
Between payments to homeowners and payments to school districts, the bill pencils out to roughly $200 to $300 million spent on property tax relief each year.
“I’m really interested to hear what the authors of this bill have to say,” said Rep. Charlie Shepherd, who moved to introduce it. “I personally think this is a good bill, and it’s way ahead of past years’ tax bills in terms of how we’ve been tore up in the press.”
The bill would also eliminate the March date for bond and levy elections, which was a sticking point for Democratic lawmakers.
“The school districts need this election to make sure that they can properly negotiate with teachers the contacts they need to,” said Rep. Ned Burns, D-Bellevue. He moved to introduce the bill but removing the August election date instead of the March date.
“We may very well inadvertently remove both March and August if we’re not careful with what we’re doing,” Burns said, pointing to other legislation currently before the Senate.
Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, pointed out that the House had passed the legislation to eliminate both of the election dates, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Others said the whole idea of the bill is to help lessen reliance on those elections.
“If we can get this passed, they won’t need bonds and levies for schools,” Shepherd said.
When asked by the committee, Monks said the sponsors’ negotiations in crafting the bill included an agreement that it would not be amended on either side of the rotunda.
The committee defeated the amendment from Burns on a party-line vote and introduced the bill unanimously. Monks said the House Revenue and Taxation Committee will hold a public hearing on it next week.
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.