DJEERS ... to Idaho House Revenue and Taxation Committee Chairman Gary Collins, R-Nampa.
In launching a legislative working group looking into property tax relief, he proclaimed: “This state’s property taxes are some of the highest in the nation.”
Who does Collins think he’s fooling?
For one thing, he’s wrong. In its most recent analysis, the Idaho State Tax Commission shows the amount of property taxes Idahoans pay — on a per capita rate — is ranked 42nd lowest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Relative to income, property taxes in Idaho are ranked 38th lowest.
For another, Collins has been part of the problem.
Three years ago, he voted to cap the maximum Homestead Exemption benefit to homes worth $200,000. Since then, a red hot housing market has driven modest home assessments beyond the full protection of that tax break. At this point, it’s likely half of Idaho’s owner-occupied dwellings are worth more than $200,000.
That’s a bad deal for homeowners, who are paying more property tax than they otherwise would. But it’s a windfall for corporations, businesses, landlords and owners of vacation or second homes. Under Idaho’s property tax system, if homeowners pay more in taxes, they pay less.
Last March, a bipartisan team — Rep. John VanderWoude, R-Nampa, and Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise — proposed restoring the full value of the homeowners tax break. That would fully cover homes worth about $243,900. And they would have revived a provision tying the exemption to the ups and downs of the housing market.
Using his power as chairman, Collins stopped them cold.
When your property tax bill arrives, don’t forget his name.
CCHEERS ... to Nez Perce County Assessor Dan Anderson.
As part of a group that includes Ada County Assessor Robert McQuade and Kootenai County Assessor Richard Houser, Anderson is pushing lawmakers to rescue senior citizens from being taxed out of their homes.
Case in point: Becky Boyd of Boise, who can’t continue to pay rising taxes on the home she’s owned since 1972. She’s selling out.
They want to revitalize the property tax reduction program — commonly known as the circuit breaker. Seniors and others — including the disabled — can draw on this program to pay a portion of their property taxes.
But in the 13 years that GOP lawmakers ardently lowered taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations, the circuit breaker’s maximum benefit has languished at $1,320, with no adjustment for inflation.
“There are few options for Idahoans who have seen their home value double, triple and even quadruple in just a few short years,” Anderson and his colleagues said. “Increasing the circuit breaker to $2,600 would provide much-needed relief to seniors who are struggling to keep a roof over the head and get food on the table.”
CCHEERS ... to Craig Gehrke, Idaho state director of the Wilderness Society, and Betsy Mizell, Idaho Conservation League central Idaho director.
It’s been almost 18 months since Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, tried to hold the entire government of the United States hostage in order to stop Congressman Mike Simpson from renaming the White Clouds Wilderness in honor of the late former Idaho Gov. Cecil D.Andrus.
Andrus is tied to the place. His opposition to an open-pit molybdenum mine in the Boulder-White Clouds helped him win the 1970 gubernatorial election, the first of four victories, and put him on the path toward serving as President Jimmy Carter’s Interior secretary.
Simpson won, but you wouldn’t know it. There are no signs designating the place as the Cecil D. Andrus White Clouds Wilderness Area. Nor was that likely to change any time soon, given tight budgets and work backlogs within the U.S. Forest Service.
Enter Gehrke, Mizell and a team of volunteers.
Tired of waiting, they raised about $8,000 from donors. They bought more than a dozen Andrus wilderness signs. Early next month, volunteers will install these signs in at least seven locations.
Isn’t that just the kind of thing a take-charge guy like Andrus would do?
DJEERS ... to Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.
There is no more independent Republican than Idaho’s attorney general. So it’s perplexing to see him come out against employment protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender equality — a position shared by a majority of his fellow Republicans in the state Legislature.
Last month, Wasden signed on as a friend of the court, lining up with the Trump administration in three U.S. Supreme Court cases involving people who lost their jobs.
Wasden argues the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is silent when it comes to those issues.
But that is a matter of interpretation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.” You’ll find many civil rights lawyers who believe the ban on discrimination on the basis of sex forms a foundation to protect gays, lesbians and transgender people in the work place.
In any event, Idaho is not party to this dispute, raising this question: What compelled Wasden to intervene?
DJEERS ...to the Bonneville County Republican Party Central Committee.
When an Idaho lawmaker resigns or dies in office, his party’s local legislative district committee nominates three people. The governor picks one.
For Bonneville GOP Chairman Mark Fuller, that’s not worked out so well.
Two years ago when his central committee colleagues designated Fuller as their top pick to succeed Bart Davis in the state Senate, then-Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter refused — and selected the third name on the list, Tony Potts.
Then it looked like Fuller would get another chance when Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, left to join the State Tax Commission. Again, the local GOP named Fuller its first choice. Again, Otter bypassed him and took the second name on the list, Barbara Ehardt.
So Fuller’s friends on the local GOP want to force the governor’s hand by limiting his options to one nominee. If the Legislature won’t change the law, they’ll go to court.
Here’s a simpler idea. Rather than engage in all this political intrigue, why doesn’t Fuller run for office?— M.T.