Here's my full column from Sunday's Spokesman-Review:
By Betsy Z. Russell
Ada County is moving to collect back taxes from state Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, for claiming a homeowner’s exemption for her Garden City home in 2016 while also claiming to be a resident of the north-central Idaho district where she was elected to the state House.
“We’ve come across some information that leads me to believe that she wasn’t entitled to it for 2016,” Ada County Assessor Bob McQuade said Friday.
After first notifying her by phone, his office late last week sent Giddings a “notice of intent to recover” the property tax she avoided when claiming the 2016 homeowner’s exemption on her Ada County home; the amount in question is about $1,200. Giddings gets 10 days to respond to the letter. If her response doesn’t convince the assessor’s office that it’s erred, it’ll then send her a tax bill and assessment notice.
At that point, if she disagrees with the outcome, she could appeal it to the county Board of Equalization.
“We got with our legal counsel,” McQuade said. “We feel like we’re on pretty firm ground.”
Giddings, a first-term state representative, claimed a homeowner’s exemption in Ada County, where the state Capitol is located, from 2010 to 2016. A homeowner’s exemption from property taxes can cut a homeowner’s tax bill in half, and it’s available only for a primary residence. In 2016, $70,550 of the value of Giddings’ Garden City home was exempted from taxation due to her homeowner’s exemption; a similar amount was exempted in 2015.
Under Idaho law, “residence” is defined as “the principal or primary home or place of abode of a person” where that person’s “habitation is fixed.”
Giddings also claimed a homeowner’s exemption in Idaho County in 2016 for a newly built home that came onto the tax rolls in March. That double-claiming is allowed in cases of new construction, where the homeowner moves partway through the year.
However, in order to run for office from Idaho County, she had to be a resident of her legislative district for a full year before the November 2016 election, and she claimed she was. She switched her voter registration to an address in Idaho County, on property owned by her father, Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings, in January 2015.
If she no longer considered her Garden City house her permanent home as of the start of 2016 and had instead become an Idaho County resident, she wouldn’t qualify for the Ada County homeowner’s exemption. Conversely, if she hadn’t made that switch and still qualified for the Ada homeowner’s exemption, she wouldn’t have been eligible to represent her north-central Idaho district in the House.
Giddings, who has made her name in the House as a stickler for even the most obscure rules, has maintained that she acted properly. She couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Dems name new executive director
The Idaho Democratic Party has named Elle Casner as its new executive director; she’s served as the party’s chief financial officer since 2015. “Elle’s experience in the fundraising and political sector will serve the organization well as we lay the groundwork and strategy to expand our programming in 2018,” said state party Chairman Bert Marley. “We look forward to having her leadership and knowledge of the Idaho political landscape to take our mission to the next level. We have a tailwind and we must take advantage of it.”
Casner is a Boise native and third-generation Idahoan who is of Basque heritage; she holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Boise State University.
“I’m excited to lead the Idaho Democratic Party into the 2018 midterms,” Casner said in a statement. “This is one of the toughest states for Democrats, but we’ve responded to adversity by growing, getting stronger, and gaining momentum.”
Republicans hold all of Idaho’s statewide elective offices, all four seats in the state’s congressional delegation, and 84 percent of the seats in the state Legislature.
Endorsements, endorsements …
Steve Yates, one of five GOP candidates already vying for lieutenant governor of Idaho in 2018, announced last week that he’s been endorsed by former Vice President Dick Cheney. “I am honored to have the support of such a distinguished national leader and influential conservative voice over many decades,” Yates said. “Serving in Vice President Cheney’s office as a deputy national security adviser, I learned valuable lessons in leadership and service. I hope to bring these traits with me to the Statehouse as Idaho’s next lieutenant governor.”
Yates is a China policy expert and former aide to Cheney who moved to Idaho Falls in 2011, and who then served three years as the state GOP chairman.
The other candidates in the lieutenant governor race are state Sens. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene; state Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon; and former state Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls. No Democrats have yet announced.
The Cheney endorsement came the same week in which GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tommy Ahlquist was endorsed by former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney; rival Raul Labrador was endorsed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; and Lt. Gov. Brad Little, also a candidate for governor in 2018, countered with an announcement that he’d been endorsed by a local leader from his hometown of Emmett, current county commission chairman and former Mayor Bill Butticci.