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Dem Brady Tags Kempthorne Over $9.73

Dear Governor Kempthorne:

Today I sent to Valley County a check for $9.73, the amount of the property tax overdue on the 14 acres you own near Tamarack. It is not my intention to embarrass you; I mean no disrespect. However, the property tax system is unfair, and you oppose needed changes. I am campaigning to replace you and lower homeowners’ property taxes. You offer an irresistible opportunity to highlight why two provisions of Idaho property tax law need to change.

First, the $9.73 tax on your property amounts to less than $l.40 cents an acre while other nearby Valley County residents pay $100 or more an acre because of a “developer’s discount” approved by the legislature and by you. It is not a fair deal. In my view, the governor should represent what is fair about our tax system, not what is broken, and should stand for the credibility of the entire system, which relies on voluntary compliance. As governor, I would make the system more equitable by vetoing or opposing provisions like the discount you enjoy.

Second, I choose this gesture to dramatize your decision not to stand up for Idaho homeowners whose property taxes are going through the roof in many places. Property taxes are rising five times faster on residential than on non-residential property. This is not fair. What was once a balanced system is rapidly becoming a tax primarily on homeowners. I would raise the homeowner’s exemption to $l00,000 and escalate it with inflation.

You claim this inequity is a local, not a state problem although the property tax system that is yielding this result was created by the state. Under the state’s uniform assessment rules, cities, counties, and school systems have no choice but to rapidly increase property taxes on homes.

Your hands-off approach to property taxes is ill suited to the needs and demands of homeowners across the state. Right now you are doing nothing and showing no leadership. As governor, I will, and there will be property tax reform.

Jerry Brady

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D.F. Oliveria started Huckleberries Online on Feb. 16, 2004. Oliveria's Sunday print Huckleberries is a past winner of the national Herb Caen Memorial Column contest.