Mike Moyle

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After a tense debate in which voices were raised, the House Rev & Tax Committee has approved HB 389, Rep. Mike Moyle's big new property tax bill, on a divided voice vote, and sent it to the full House with a recommendation that it "do pass." A substitute motion from Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, to instead send the bill to the House's amending order for changes, including increasing the homeowner's exemption by more than the specified 25%, failed, also on a divided voice vote.

Rep. Ben Adams, R-Nampa, spoke in favor of Nichols' motion. “When it comes to property taxes, we are here to represent the ultimate stakeholders and that’s the homeowners,” he said. “In my district. $125,000 is not going to cut it. So I would also like to see the 55% portion with potentially a sunset.” That 55% is something from Rep. Bruce Skaug's proposed bill to raise the homeowner's exemption, including moving it up to 55% instead of 55% of value.

Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, the committee chair, ruled Adams out of order for mentioning legislation that hasn't been introduced. Harris spoke in favor of the bill, saying, “The ultimate stakeholder is not the homeowner. We have many, many stakeholders out there.” He said homeowners pay 43% of Idaho’s property tax.

Harris also spoke against the substitute motion, saying, "In my opinion, it kills the bill."

Rep. Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly, made the original motion that passed. Several committee members, including Reps. Hartgen, Kauffman and Okuniewicz, said they'd support the original motion because of "the timing issue" but would reserve their right to change their votes on the House floor.

Moyle criticized local government officials. “They’re not going to stop their bad behavior until you force them to,” he told the committee. “They come down here and blame you. This is a 25% increase in the homeowner’s exemption. This is a start in the right direction. … My friends, this is not the perfect bill, there’s a lot more to do. This could help some, but it hurts others.”

"The cities were at some of the meetings, but all they ever did was say, 'Hell, no,'" Moyle said. He said other parties including Idaho counties, the Farm Bureau and others participated in crafting the bill; he said IACI opposes it. "IACI wanted the whole enchilada," he said, removal of the personal property tax on business equipment entirely at a cost of about $130 million a year to the state general fund. The bill instead raises the exemption from the current $100,000 per county to $250,000, at a cost to the state general fund of $8,1 million a year. 

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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