Legislators set to counteract vetoes

When the longest Idaho legislative session convenes tomorrow, it plans to overturn any vetoes the governor might have made last week. None of Gov. Little’s three vetoes this session has been overturned, but the votes have been close. 

The four bills that Republican legislators seem most determined to save are those about the governor’s emergency powers. AP reporter Keith Rider states these “limit an Idaho governor’s ability to alter laws, to take away gun rights, to prevent religious and other gatherings and to restrict people from going to work during emergencies.” We may have to live with them.

The bill least likely to survive an override is the property tax bill (HB 389). Not introduced until Monday, May 3, the bill provides more relief to businesses than to Idahoans hard-pressed to pay taxes on rapidly inflating home values.

Currently, a business’s first $100,000 in ‘personal property’–tools, machines, computers, desks, etc.–is exempt from taxation. HB 389 raises that exemption to $250,000; the state will pay $8.1 million a year to reimburse local government agencies for their lost revenue.

Not the property tax relief you were hoping for?  Well, the bill also increases the homeowners’ exemption from $100,000 to $125,000 a year–a change that, on average, will save taxpayers about $180 a year. It will also increase the maximum amount of the ‘circuit breaker’ from $1,320 to $1,500 a year. This is a property tax reduction available to those elderly or disabled with incomes less than $31,900.

Revenues from both these cuts will be made up by disqualifying those eligible for the circuit breaker if their home becomes worth 25% more than the median home price in their county.

The idea that there’s a multitude of low-income elderly and disabled with homes worth more than a half million dollars is mind boggling–and thinking of them all struggling to find cheaper housing in the current market is disturbing.

The portion of the bill that has brought the most criticism, however, sets an eight percent limit on the amount that new construction may increase total property tax revenue. This could prevent needed increases in police and fire protection.

Eight Canyon County Republican legislators found the bill bad enough that they joined Democrats in opposing it. The Senate vote was short of the number needed for an override.

The bill that needs vetoed most reduces income taxes, particularly for the wealthy, at an annual cost of $162.9 million or more. HB 380 could push Idaho from having the eighth lowest taxes in the nation to the fourth or fifth–while our schools receive just half the average funding per pupil.

Gov. Little will sign HB 380 though. Not only did it pass both legislative houses with more than the two-thirds needed to override a veto, cutting taxes is practically a religion among Republicans.    .

A recent survey of “likely GOP primary voters” found that 76% of respondents favored Governor Little’s agenda over the legislators’ concerns with critical race theory and emergency powers.That question, however, listed Gov. Little’s agenda as cutting taxes, funding education and investing in infrastructure. Would the results have been different if ‘cutting taxes’ had been listed as a legislative concern?

Every year voters pass levies and bonds demonstrating that they value schools over cutting taxes. Their legislators, however, clearly don’t. This year, the House alone introduced about 20 bills attacking public education. Legislators rejected a Trump-administration grant of $6 million for educational activities for preschoolers and refused even to vote on full-day kindergarten.

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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