Personal property tax bill sails to House floor

Seth Grigg, Rev and Tax
Seth Grigg, Idaho Association of Counties

With little debate — and no dissent — the House Revenue and Taxation Committee said yes to a personal property tax repeal bill that has the blessing of education groups.

After a hastily arranged Tuesday morning hearing, one with almost a perfunctory feel, the tax-writing committee sent House Bill 315 to the House floor. A vote is likely this afternoon; the House will meet at 3:30 p.m. to consider the bill, Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, told colleagues before the House’s lunch break.

HB 315 is a new and slightly rewritten bill to partially repeal the personal property tax, an unpopular tax on business equipment, supplies and furnishings.

But the bill’s central concept is familiar, and the coalition supporting it is unchanged.

Drafted by the Idaho Association of Counties — with the support of cities, the Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators — HB 315 amounts to a $20 million tax cut for businesses. By contrast, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a business lobbying group, has been pressing for a multi-year, $120 million plan to repeal the tax entirely.

School officials have sided with the counties on a partial repeal, saying this protects short- and long-term education funding.

First, under HB 315, school districts and other local governments would receive a full $20 million reimbursement from state sales taxes. Perhaps more important, a partial repeal would not cause a wholesale shift of the property tax burden from businesses to homeowners — a change that could make it more difficult for schools to pass bond issues and levies in the future.

On Tuesday morning, ISBA, IASA and Vallivue School District Superintendent Pat Charlton testified in favor of HB 315. For Charlton, preserving the property tax base is a pressing concern: He said his growing district will go to voters in May, seeking a bond issue to build a second high school.

Alex LaBeau
Alex LaBeau, Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry

In all, five people testified in favor of HB 315: three education officials, a county assessor and a county treasurer. That point was not lost on IACI President Alex LaBeau, who attended Tuesday morning’s hearing, but did not testify. LaBeau said he hasn’t had a chance to review the new bill with his membership.

HB 315 is moving quickly through the House. On Monday afternoon, it was introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee — a leadership committee that meets only sporadically, often to start bills on a legislative fast track. After the bill’s introduction, Revenue and Taxation put the bill on Tuesday’s calendar, scheduling a hearing for the unusually early hour of 7:30 a.m.

And when it came time for a committee decision, the bill passed on a voice vote, with no lawmakers voting no.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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