Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, presents bipartisan legislation in the House Revenue & Tax Committee on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, regarding certified family care homes.

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Bipartisan legislation to allow those who operate certified family homes in Idaho for adults with developmental or physical disabilities to not lose eligibility for the “circuit breaker” property tax break cleared the House Revenue & Taxation Committee this morning. Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said the homes are reimbursed $54 per day for providing 24/7 care, and those payments aren’t considered income by the IRS, but the state Tax Commission does count them as income for circuit breaker qualification. That break is a small subsidy on property taxes for homeowners who are low-income seniors or people with disabilities; Wintrow said for some certified family home operators, that means they can’t get the property tax break for which they otherwise qualify.

Providing care in a certified family home means big savings to the state, she noted; institutionalization, by comparison, costs $265 per day. Home operators who receive the payments can’t deduct any expenses such as food, blankets, or supplies against them, as people can for business income, she noted.

Art Evans, bureau chief for development disabilities services at the state Department of Health & Welfare, told the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, “This is really the least expensive and most cost-effective service that we have to keep people out of institutions.”

A certified home caregiver told the representatives, “I’m just asking that you consider giving us the same opportunity as other homeowners.”

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, argued against the bill, saying, “Why aren’t we including removing Social Security benefits? … Unemployment? Military benefits? Why are we picking on one small group? I understand what they do, but I think we’re starting down the road that next year we’re going to have another one and another one.”

Rep. Ben Adams, R-Nampa, a co-sponsor of the bill, countered that the same committee recently approved a bill allowing certain veterans to move their property tax exemption within the same year when they move. By Moyle’s logic, he asked, “Why didn’t we include everybody over 65?” He urged the committee to support the bill.

HB 212 has eight co-sponsors in addition to Wintrow; they include Sen. Jeff Agenbroad, R-Nampa, and Reps. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay; Lauren Necochea, D-Boise; James Ruchti, D-Pocatello; Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell; Adams; Linda Hartgen, R-Twin Falls; and Brent Crane, R-Nampa. The bill now moves to the full House.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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