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The Senate is in mid-debate on HB 409a, the Senate-amended bill to impose a three-year, 4% cap on local government property tax collections this morning, when Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said she thought the bill didn’t fully address the problem, and that part of it is the state not properly funding education. Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is presiding over the Senate, interrupted her, saying, “Sen. Ward-Engelking, I would just object to that comment there, about improperly funding education.”

The Senate went at ease, and grim-faced members of both the majority and minority leadership, along with McGeachin, left to consult in a back office.

Here’s what Ward-Engelking said: “I, too have been very concerned with the property tax increases we’ve been seeing, especially in Treasure Valley. But there’s so many issues that are actually causing that, and this particular bill isn’t dealing with any of those issues. And I’d just like to remind people that in many cases about a third of what you see on your property tax is a school bond or a levy. And we just recently had 47 school districts pass levies throughout the state, and that’s because we are not adequately funding education at the state level.” That’s when McGeachin objected.

Eventually, the senators returned, and Ward-Engelking resumed her debate. "I don't think this is the right answer to addressing our property tax crisis in our state," she said. "I think we can do better."

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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