Kootenai County taxpayers would get a $2.5 million property tax break under a bill passed by the House Thursday over the objections of Rep. Tom Dorr.
The measure would replace some of the property taxes that Kootenai, Jerome and Twin Falls county taxpayers pay for Idaho’s two community colleges. It would shift $5 million from liquor profits that now go to the state general fund to the community colleges.
Dorr and Rep. Hilde Kellogg, both Post Falls Republicans, opposed the bill.
Dorr spoke out on the House floor against shifting the liquor money. “To take money from something like that that is known to be and documented to be so destructive, and to funnel it into something that is as positive and constructive as community colleges, to me is inherently wrong,” Dorr said.
Using any liquor funds for education would be wrong, he said. He called it “tantamount to saying for every robbery that takes place, we’ll send money to this fund.
“I simply cannot agree with that.”
Rep. Ron Black, R-Twin Falls, sponsor of the measure, told Dorr, “Currently, every budget you vote for on this floor may have liquor funds in it. I guess, using that reasoning, you ought to vote against every budget that comes up because it may have liquor funds in it.”
Titters broke out in the House.
Black is a Mormon who doesn’t drink.
He proposed the bill after first trying unsuccessfully for a tax hike on liquor or beer and wine to replace community college property taxes. Then, a proposal to tax soda pop for the same purpose died in the face of heavy industry lobbying.
“We need your help,” Black told lawmakers.
Idaho’s colleges and universities, including the two-year Eastern Idaho Technical College, are fully state-funded and don’t levy any local property taxes. But the two community colleges, North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene and the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, rely on local property taxes for a third of their funding.
If Black’s bill passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, Kootenai County’s property taxes for NIC would be cut roughly in half.
“This is not full relief, but it’s a good step,” Black said. “We’re asking you to help us as we help you in paying for the other higher education institutions.”
Rep. Kitty Gurnsey, R-Boise, co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget committee, said she normally would oppose such a drain on the general fund, but she favored this bill. People in NIC’s and CSI’s home counties “are truly being taxed unfairly,” Gurnsey said.
She said growth in the state budget will cover the cost. The shift would start July 1, 1997.
Rep. Wayne Meyer, R-Rathdrum, noted that Kootenai County taxpayers pay taxes to support the other universities as well as NIC.
Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Coeur d’Alene, also spoke out for the bill. “I think the liquor tax is a great place to get money,” he said. “This is a good deal for us.”
Kellogg, who sits on the NIC Foundation board of directors, said she liked the concept but couldn’t support taking the money away from the general fund. “I do think there are other ways we can do this,” she said.
The vote was 58-9. Kellogg and Dorr were the only North Idaho representatives voting no..
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: PROPERTY TAX CUT A bill that passed the state House Thursday would cut the $5.8 million chunk of North Idaho College’s $18.7 million budget that comes from property taxes by 43 percent. That would slice tax bills for every homeowner in the county. Here’s how it would affect you: Tax on a house and land valued together at $75,000 with a homeowner’s exemption would drop about $25.53. Tax on a typical suburban house and lot valued together at $120,000 would drop about $41.14. Tax on a house and lot valued together at $250,000 with an exemption would drop about $113.48.
Source: Idaho Legislature
Source: Idaho Legislature