Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Jaquet jabs tax structure

Bills designed to relieve property taxes, fund affordable housing

Express Staff Writer

The push for property tax relief and funding for local affordable housing continues in the Statehouse this week with three additional bills introduced by Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum.

Jaquet, who's concerned about the rising cost of property taxes and drastic shortage of affordable housing in the Wood River Valley, crafted the bills to tackle both problems simultaneously.

HO501 proposes a local option sales tax for capital projects and HO532 would enact a local option real estate transfer tax, also known as a RETT. Under both bills, 50 percent of the revenues would go to property tax relief and half to capital projects, such as affordable housing.

Jaquet acknowledged that a RETT could be met with opposition since it requires a sales price disclosure.

"But I would encourage people to think about it," she said. "What I'm seeing is a real unfairness when sales prices are not disclosed ... folks in Bellevue and Hailey are paying disproportionately higher.

"If everybody paid their share, everybody would pay less, including high-valued properties."

Jaquet added that real estate sales would not be impacted, and that Colorado resorts like Aspen and Vail have benefited from a RETT.

"Vail city has just built a 150-unit property for seasonal employees with RETT funds," Jaquet wrote to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. "(And) 63 percent of Aspen residents live in affordable workforce housing, which would be in the thousands, (and) those units were built in large part with the RETT."

Also on Monday, Jaquet introduced HO428 to repeal the developer's discount, which was passed in 2002 to provide property tax relief to farmers. Jaquet said that bill didn't distinguish between active farmers and people who simply own farmland, which was creating a tax imbalance.

"Instead the provision is providing a property tax loophole for selected property tax payers who are not farmers and thereby creating an unfair tax shift to others ..." Jaquet wrote.

More than 30 property tax bills have been introduced during the 2006 Legislature, including Jaquet's proposal to increase the homeowner's exemption from $50,000—set in 1983 and considered outdated by many lawmakers—to $100,000.

Rebekah Helzel, president of Advocates for Real Community Housing, based in Ketchum, sent a letter to the Revenue and Taxation Committee late last month, claiming that the lack of affordable housing is driving away the valley's service workers, including police, firefighters, health professionals and tourism-related employees.

"This economic imperative has been severely eroded by the continued double-digit rise in housing prices and the large increase in second-home owners, who on average occupy their residences five weeks a year," Helzel wrote. "Our very health and safety depend on finding solutions to the housing problem."

Citizens can send comments to the Idaho Legislature at

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