OPINION: Working together, we got simple property tax relief done right

Friday March 31, 2023

By Governor Brad Little

No other state has given back more taxpayer money per capita than Idaho. We’ve turned back $2.7 billion in tax cuts to Idahoans just in the past three years.

It’s a feather in our cap, an achievement we’re certainly proud of. However, Idaho’s fiscally conservative leaders aren’t stopping there.

In January, I called on the Legislature to deliver enduring property tax relief. My budget recommendation set aside $120 million for property tax relief, and the Legislature went to work coming up with a plan.

The first bill that arrived on my desk (House Bill 292) was a hodgepodge of policy items intermingled with property tax relief, which presented some real unintended consequences.

This is Idaho, not Congress, and I’ve long held that tax policy needs to be fair, simple, predictable, and competitive. We’ve maintained that approach to tax policy up until now, and it’s a big reason Idaho has the strongest economy in the nation.

The first bill would have hit the brakes on many big transportation projects across the state – projects we secured without raising your taxes and fees, and ones that help keep up with exploding population growth and keep you safe on the road. Impacts to public defense funding, sales tax collections, local government sales tax distributions, school funding elections, and other problems plagued the bill.

For those reasons, I sent the bill back and asked our good legislators to come up with a simpler solution.

And they delivered! One veto, three trailer bills, and six appropriations committee actions later, we got simple property tax relief done right.

Here’s what we accomplished for Idahoans: $117 million in enduring property tax relief without all the unintended consequences of a cluttered bill. We fixed the bonding issue, and a $400 million package of needed transportation projects will soon advance. We also ensured public defense will be fully funded, and that ambulance and fire districts are not adversely affected by the original bill.

Many of my other property tax relief priorities I spoke about in my State of the State and Budget Address were also accomplished this year. Funding for local transportation projects and drinking water infrastructure will help take the burden off local property taxpayers, which effectively relieves local government (and your property taxes) from the burden of meeting those needs.

It was unfortunate, in my view, that the Legislature kept changes that result in a loss of local control in school funding. However, Idahoans can rest assured I remain committed to supporting education as my top priority in the years ahead.

Property tax relief got a little messy there in the middle of this session, but that’s OK. What matters is that, in the end, Idahoans will continue to benefit from living in the state that turns back more of their hard-earned money while remaining the least regulated state.

I appreciate my legislative partners for working with me to get simple property tax relief done right this session!

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