Friday, July 14, 2006

Democrats continue fight for property tax relief


By STEVE BENSON
Express Staff Writer

With property taxes in some Idaho counties exploding in 2006 and a special legislative session to address the issue looming in August, state Democrats on Tuesday launched a proposal at the Statehouse in Boise that could provide residential homeowners with up to $104 million in property tax relief.

The bill would use half of Idaho's $200 million budget surplus to cover taxes that residential homeowners pay to fund school maintenance and operation costs, without raising the state's 5 percent sales tax.

"We would need to make sure the schools aren't hurt by it," Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said Thursday

Jaquet, who has been fighting for property tax reform in the Idaho Legislature for 15 years, said the bill would save residential homeowners up to 40 percent in property taxes. She will introduce the proposal to Blaine County residents in a town meeting on Thursday, July 20, at 5 p.m. at the Community Campus in Hailey.

The savings would not apply to other properties, such as second-home, commercial and agricultural holdings.

"They haven't been paying the same huge leap homeowners have paid," Jaquet said. "They've stayed pretty steady. It would target the people who are really in a world of hurt."

Jaquet and the other Democratic representatives, who are outnumbered 4-1 by Republicans in the state House and Senate, will have to contend with Republican Gov. Jim Risch's plan, which proposes to use some of the state's budget surplus and an undetermined hike in Idaho's sales tax to relieve all property tax payers.

Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, told The Associated Press that Risch's plan gives 60 percent tax relief to "special interests," including wealthy vacation homeowners, such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who owns a home north of Ketchum.

"We don't believe the governor of California deserves a tax break at the expense of Idaho residents," Werk told the AP.

The date of the special session has not been determined, although August 25 "is a moving target," Jaquet sad.

Property taxes in Blaine County rose 18 percent in 2006 and 21 percent last year.

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For more information

Learn about Rep. Wendy Jaquet's tax relief proposal at a July 20 town meeting at the Community Campus in Hailey. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m.




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