A few thoughts on a few, somewhat random, topics...

Property Tax Working Group on hot seat. On Monday, 10 Idaho legislators will explore possible changes to Idaho’s property tax system. The key pressure is rapidly growing residential values in Idaho’s major urban areas coupled with a fixed cap of $100,000 in the portion of owner-occupied property’s value exempt from property taxes. 

That combination is boosting property taxes paid by Idaho homeowners in the big urban areas of the Treasure Valley, the Coeur d’Alene region and parts of East Idaho. It is also reducing property taxes for many second home and commercial property owners. Many urban legislators are pressing to raise the cap on the homeowner’s exemption.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle wants to take a different approach and cap revenues available to municipalities. The problems is that is where the rapid growth is concentrated, creating significant pressure for expanded services. Others want to blame the Legislature for inadequate education funding, triggering a claimed reliance on property tax levies.

Scott McIntosh of the Idaho Statesman reports that Kathlynn Ireland, property tax specialist with the Idaho State Tax Commission, will provide data showing Idaho’s property taxes per person are 42nd in the United States.

Idaho local governments are dependent on property taxes, but that form of taxation is a significant weight on those with fixed incomes. Locals are prohibited, unless in certain recreational areas, from imposing sales taxes. Income taxes are also off limits. An alternative revenue source would lessen dependence on property taxes. Some creativity may be in order such as a local tax on alternative energy production or, radically, a small statewide sales tax boost diverted to local governments. Maybe the trade-off could be a property tax cap of some form.

One thing the working group may want to take a hard look at is expanding the circuit breaker property tax relief program which helps those of limited means who are widowed, elderly, disabled, a veteran or a POW. That kind of modification would soften the weight borne by those populations.

Idaho Falls rolling out fiber citywide. The Idaho Falls City Council has voted to expand its high speed fiber connection program to every city residence over the next four years.  The pilot focused on 1,250 or so homes and over 300 signed up for the service. The cost is $25 a month for the fiber connection and four providers currently compete to offer individualized packages.  A full 1gigabyte service varies in price from $48 to $69.95 a month.

The adjacent City of Ammon offers a similar service and was the first out of the gate.

Risch and Simpson earn kudos. U.S. Senate Foreign Relations chair and Idaho Sen. Jim Risch rolled out a bipartisan bill to impose “biting” sanctions on Turkey and Russia for their recent actions in Syria, including the attack on our Kurdish allies.

Rep. Mike Simpson joined a bipartisan House super-majority to condemn Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds.

In contrast Rep. Russ Fulcher was one of only one in three House GOP members who backed Trump’s horrid decision.

Quote of the week. Rep. Mike Simpson to the Washington Post after Trump announced that next year’s G-7 meeting will be held at his Doral resort near Miami:

“You have to go out and try to defend him. Well, I don’t know if I can do that!” steamed a frustrated Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “I have no doubt that Doral is a really good place — I’ve been there, I know. But it is politically insensitive. They should have known what the kickback is going to be on this, that politically he’s doing it for his own benefit.”

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com).  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..