Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Unfair free ride

Loopholes large enough for a fleet of 18-wheeler flatbed trucks carrying Army tanks to drive through have been accommodatingly provided to development interests by the Idaho Legislature.

For example, lawmakers in the Republican majority bloc have repeatedly said "No!" to a modest transfer tax on real estate sales. Revenues from such a levy would bring immediate relief to cash-strapped counties and would tap buyers for a pittance.

One other exemption also creates an inequity that means yet more tax burdens for a town's residents.

Under state law, new residences go untaxed if a certificate of occupancy hasn't been issued.

In the case of Ketchum, 90 such dwellings valued at $54 million are currently untaxed. The same scenario plagues all Idaho cities and counties.

Yet, owners of the untaxed and unoccupied properties expect the city of Ketchum (and other communities) to provide full services, including fire and police units in emergencies, as if the properties were taxpayers-in-good-standing.

This is a free ride for those property owners, and conspicuously unfair to residents paying their fair share for community services.

Perhaps it's wishful thinking to expect the Republican majority still dominating the state Legislature to change its mind. But fair-minded lawmakers should make every effort to rethink the wisdom of maintaining this exception.

Legislators have a duty to amend the law to allow taxation of dwellings without certificates of occupancy and to treat all properties and all taxpayers with equality.

Fair is fair.

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