February 7, 1995 in Idaho

Property Valuation Plan Snags On Legal Questions

Associated Press
 

Rep. Jim Stoicheff ran into problems Monday in the House tax committee over his proposed constitutional amendment to limit the growth in property valuations for tax purposes to 4 percent per year.

He said that in the last few years, there has been a big surge in property valuations, increasing property taxes, and that is hurting longtime Idaho residents.

“We suddenly have been discovered and property valuations are skyrocketing,” the Sandpoint Democrat said. “We need to stop the growth so we don’t have a state where only the elite can afford to live.”

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee scheduled a second day of hearings on the Stoicheff proposal for today.

Many counties had increases in property valuation of just a few percent for most of the 1980s, he said, but valuations have zoomed in the 90s.

There was only modest growth in property valuations until 1989, but since then the increases have been much larger. From 1993 to 1994, the statewide increase was 11 percent and in Ada County it was 17 percent.

Even tiny Adams County went for years with increases averaging 2.6 percent, but property increased 10.6 percent in value last year, Stoicheff said. He said affluent Sun Valley “is almost a town of elitists - where working people can’t afford to live.”

But legislators said there were constitutional and legal problems with the proposal.

Rep. Golden Linford, R-Rexburg, said the state’s tax system is based on “market value” of real estate, and if valuations did not go up to reflect market value, that would no longer work.

Other committee members noted that the Idaho Constitution requires all classes of property to be taxed equally.

“It would have some conflicts” with existing law, said Tax Commission spokesman Dan John. “The current code says we use market value.”

Randy Nelson, director of Associated Taxpayers of Idaho, said besides real property, Idaho also taxes personal and operating property. It would create an unfair system if those types of property continued to be taxed at market value, while valuations were held artificially low on real estate.

“The people of the state are moving toward heavy, heavy property taxes,” Stoicheff said. “We have to do something.”

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