August 23, 2008 in City

GOP erred in Minnick tax break charge

Sali opponent hasn’t even been billed for this year
By JOHN MILLER Associated Press

Office politics

U.S. Rep. Bill Sali could be forced to move his district office from a downtown Boise building because its location violates U.S. House rules.

Sali took over office space in the Hoff Building on Boise’s Bannock Street from former Idaho Rep. Butch Otter when Otter became governor and Sali was elected to Congress in 2006.

The office is in the 2nd Congressional District, while Sali represents Idaho’s 1st Congressional District. The boundary dividing the districts cuts through western Boise.

BOISE – The Idaho Republican Party erred this week when it accused Democratic U.S. House candidate Walt Minnick of improperly benefiting this year from a homeowner’s tax exemption on a residence located outside the district he seeks to represent.

Minnick is running against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Sali in the 1st Congressional District, which covers Idaho’s western and northern regions. The boundary dividing the state’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts cuts through western Boise.

Minnick has owned a home on Hearthstone Drive in Boise’s Foothills area in the 2nd District since 1994, but last October moved to a rental home in the 1st District. Only owner-occupied homes can receive the break, so Minnick’s vacant Hearthstone Drive home no longer qualifies.

In his criticism, GOP state Chairman Norm Semanko wrote that Minnick “paid his 2008 property taxes earlier this year and claimed a property tax exemption for his primary residence, located in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District.”

Contrary to Semanko’s claim, however, Minnick hasn’t paid his 2008 taxes or benefited this year from the break that allows all Idaho homeowners to reduce their taxable value by as much as $100,938.

“Those taxes aren’t going to be due until December of this year,” Robert McQuade, the assessor in Ada County, said Friday. “The bill hasn’t even been sent out yet.”

The GOP’s effort to make residential real estate a campaign issue is another indication that the Sali-Minnick contest is getting nasty, in part because many believe it to be Idaho’s most-competitive race of 2008.

Minnick is now selling his vacant Hearthstone Drive home, and aides said once that transaction is complete he plans to build a new home on property he’s owned for two decades located west of Idaho’s capital city in the 1st District. When the Hearthstone Drive home was assessed for taxes in 2008, the homeowner’s exemption was still in effect because it renews automatically. McQuade said it’s common for people who move not to inform him they’ve left.

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