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Eye On Boise

Thu., March 16, 2006, 5:20 p.m.

Property tax debate starts, doesn’t get too far

The Idaho Senate has adjourned for the night after amending just one property tax bill, HB 676, the bill to do away with a loophole that allows some rural land developers and speculators to pay agricultural rates, giving them a huge tax break. Unanimously, with no debate, the senators approved an amendment to delete a clause that allowed the loophole to continue if an owner transferred land to family members.

The senators had started debating amendments to HB 421, the bill to raise the homeowner’s exemption, when it got late and they had a non-debatable motion to adjourn. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, loudly declared a “no” vote, but she was out-voted.

“I’m very disappointed today that we adjourned in the middle of the amending order to allow the Democrats to go to a fundraiser,” she said afterward. “This is a huge issue for people in northern Idaho. We’re being chastised by people at home saying we’re not doing anything,” and it’s time to do it, she said.

So as of the end of tonight’s debate, two bills had survived the amending order and moved on to full Senate consideration: HB 680, which sets up a state-sponsored deferral program to allow some low-income disabled or elderly homeowners to defer their taxes until they die or sell their homes; and HB 676, to do away with the so-called “developer’s discount” tax loophole. The Senate goes back in session tomorrow morning at 9.

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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.