BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislation imposing a one-year, statewide freeze on property taxes headed to the Idaho Senate despite dire warnings from city and county governments that the effects could be devastating.
The state House voted 46-23 Tuesday to approve the bill that backers say is needed to find a way to reduce residential property taxes.
Property taxes have become a top issue this legislative session as explosive growth in many parts of Idaho has caused property values to increase, forcing up property taxes. Republicans and Democrats are calling it a crisis but differ on ways to solve the problem.
Republican House Majority Leader Mile Moyle sponsored the legislation.
“We do not have a tax problem, we have a spending problem, in my opinion,” he told fellow lawmakers.
He said the freeze would give state lawmakers and local government officials time to work out a solution.
City and county governments have said freezing property taxes won’t freeze expenses.
House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel acknowledged the problem but said it was one created by state lawmakers, not local governments, noting in particular the Legislature removed a homeowner’s exemption several years ago that caused a tax shift away from commercial properties to residential properties.
“You can try to come down on (local governments) like a ton of bricks, but what do you want them to do?” she asked. “Stop running a courthouse? Stop running a public defenders office, or stop running a DMV?”
Republican Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt spoke in favor of the measure.
“Property taxes happen to be the most un-American thing we do in this country,” she said. “We ought to be addressing property taxes in a comprehensive way.”
Republican Rep. Ryan Kerby spoke against the bill, saying some areas weren’t experiencing explosive home values.
“The problem we’ve got here is this bill is really needed in some areas of the state and to a much lesser degree in others,” he said.