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Eye On Boise

Clashing property tax proposals emerge in House, Senate

The Senate State Affairs Committee has voted 6-3 to send the full Senate SJR 108, a constitutional amendment that would shift school operations funding off the property tax, and raise the sales tax by whatever amount needed to cover the schools’ loss – likely one and a quarter percent. Meanwhile, the House Revenue & Taxation Committee this morning voted 11-8 to introduce and send to the full House a new bill from Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, to eliminate the school operations property tax, but raise sales tax by just a penny. That would leave a $40 million gap in school funding.

Which one will pass? Will either? The constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds vote in each house – which could be hard to get – plus a majority vote of the people next fall. The tax-shift bill, which most are calling the “M&O” bill because it eliminates the 3-mill school Maintenance & Operations levy, could run into trouble with lawmakers concerned about school funding.

Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, asked the State Affairs Committee, “How can we assure the schools that the funding will be there – when we’ve already proven that we can’t assure them?” reports S-R reporter Meghann Cuniff. Three years ago, lawmakers approved an unprecedented mid-year holdback on school funding, prompting a thousand teachers to march on the state capitol protesting the permanent mid-year budget cut.

Relations between the two houses, as they often do in the final showdown of a legislative session, are deteriorating. In the House committee, Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, who voted for Moyle’s lengthy bill saying it could be worse, said, “Maybe if we churn out enough paper we can roll it into cylinders and go across the way and whack some senators, because they’re responsible for the predicament we’re in.”

Waiting in the background is legislation to freeze property taxes for one year – a possible fallback if the House and Senate can’t agree on any changes in school property taxes.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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