BOISE, Idaho — Property tax relief is a hot topic at the statehouse right now and several bills, including two now headed to the House and Senate floors, aim to fix parts of a property tax relief bill passed during the 2021 legislative session.
HB 389 was introduced in the final days of the last session. Part of the bill made changes to who qualifies for Idaho's property tax relief or circuit breaker program.
The circuit breaker program is a property tax reduction program that's been around since the 70's.
"These people are mostly senior citizens needing the help that has been offered to them since this property tax reduction program began in 1974," Republican Sen. Regina Bayer of Meridian, the sponsor of SB 1241, which would alter requirements for the program, said.
Backers of the legislation say older homeowners with limited incomes need the tax break or they'll be forced from their homes due to soaring home values and rising property taxes.
Idaho homeowners can apply for the program if their income is $32,230 or less, and if they fall into one of these categories:
- They're 65 or older
- A former prisoner of war or hostage
- A widow
- A motherless or fatherless child under 18
Several county assessors from around the state testified in favor of the bill at the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee Monday, including Jerry White, the Shoshone County Assessor.
"These people in our county, we had silver mines. The hard rock miners made very very good money and when they made good money, they built nice homes. But hard rock miners die young," White said. "Our county is about 12,500 people. We have 2,057 people that receive a homeowner's exemption."
Under the limitations set by house bill 389, in Shoshone, a fraction of these people would be excluded from the program.
"91 of those would've been excluded from the program. Of those, 44 of them are widows," White said. "I would guess, 40 of those without this program would no longer be in their home."
In committee, House Majority Leader, Rep. Mike Moyle voted to move the house version of this bill to the floor with a due pass recommendation, but expressed concerns.
"The ability is there for the counties to address this problem now. And I think the reason that there's a push for this bill is they want general fund monies to fix the problem and not their own funds. I think it's important that we remember, the state doesn't collect property taxes, the state doesn't spend property taxes," he said.
The House bill would change the home valuation portion of qualification for the circuit breaker program from 125% of the median assessed home value to $300,000 or 150% of the median assessed home value, whichever is greater.
It passed the House Friday and will move to the Senate.
The Senate bill would change the home valuation portions of qualifications for the circuit breaker program from 125% of the median assessed home value to 200% of median assessed home value.
This means in Ada County, the current limit to qualify for the program is $498,875. Under the House bill, the limit would go up to $598,650 and under the Senate bill, the limit would be $798,200.