Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Risch's tax bill will do more harm than good

Guest opinion by Sen. Clint Stennett

Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, is the minority leader in the Idaho Senate. He represents District 25, which includes Blaine County.

It has been written: "Propaganda can outrageously insult common sense only where common sense has lost its validity." The propaganda around the governor's property tax bill would have us believe that it will lower our taxes while protecting education funding.

One thing Idahoans are known for and can be proud of that is that we have a lot of common sense, and we should not buy this propaganda. Idahoans must recognize that this entire process was flawed. This was a rubber-stamp special interest session. In the last legislative session, after 93 days we failed to come to a consensus on tax policy. Yet there we were attempting to do in nine hours what we could not do in 93 days.

What we did accomplish last session was an increase in the homeowner's exemption. A plan was targeted at the problem: soaring home valuations based on irrational exuberance driven by out-of-state speculators. It appears as though the governor is saying that homeowners got too much relief last winter. Now the Legislature was asked to take back that targeted relief and give it to the largest corporations in the state, out-of-state speculators, and vacation homes.

The governor of California has a second-home mansion in my backyard. This bill gives the "Terminator" a tax break worth thousands of dollars while the gardener who pulls the weeds out of his flower beds will pay a 20 percent increase on the tax for the food he buys to feed his family. Where is the common sense in that? There is none.

Another impact of the governor's bill that must be considered is the impact of losing $18 million in income tax deductibility for the cost of property taxes from our state and federal taxes. This bill will give us the additional pleasure of pouring money down a rat hole by sending more money to the federal government. I believe most Idahoans would rather keep their money invested in their local schools rather than filtered through the federal treasury.

And while we are sending more money to Washington, D.C., we are robbing our local school boards of their authority to set policy and budgets for their local people. That sounds way different than the local control headlines I see on Republican campaign brochures. This bill sends more tax dollars to the feds and takes away a local authority. Where's the common sense in that?

While homeowners are paying more because of escalating property values driven up by speculators, this bill rewards utilities, farms, timber and commercial properties that have seen very little increase or even decreased taxes over the past five years.

The propaganda of lower taxes and holding schools harmless is a myth at best and an outright misrepresentation at its worse. The governor's tax shift is an insult to the intelligence of Idaho's middle-class homeowners who will shoulder the burden of a reckless tax policy that will do more harm than good.

Idahoans know this; it's just plain ol' common sense.

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