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News >  Idaho

Cities Team Up, Hire Boise Lobbyists Hope To Use Influence To Alter Outdated Sales Tax Formula

Thirty years ago, Post Falls didn’t generate a lot of sales tax.

That’s changed today in a big way. But the formula the state uses to distribute a large chunk of the sales tax money to cities, counties, fire districts and the like is based on 1965 business inventories.

That’s back before there was a Factory Outlet mall and other businesses generating millions in sales each year in Post Falls.

Local officials would like to see that formula updated.

But the potential losers - areas of the state that haven’t grown, which benefit from the outdated formula - are unlikely to welcome legislation.

This year, Kootenai County, Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene have joined to hire Boise lobbyists to push for an updated formula and three other legislative issues.

County Administrator Tom Taggart said so far, it looks like the best bet may be to push for an in-depth study of how the state divides its sales taxes.

“The growing areas are the ones that are getting penalized,” Taggart said.

“Our counties have to use local property tax to pay for services, whereas other counties are getting their sales tax plus a share of ours.”

Taggart drafted legislation last year, but it died in a legislative committee.

Lawmakers from slow-growing areas saw no reason to support it.

This time, lobbyists Chuck Lempesis and Mike Kane may help the county and cities call for an interim legislative committee to study the issue. “If there’s support to go to an interim committee, that’s probably what would happen,” Taggart said.

If not, he said, they’ll probably try again with the same legislation.

The county and the two cities each contributed about $3,300 for Lempesis and Kane’s help.

The other three issues are:

Impact fees. Current law allows only Ada County to charge them. Coeur d’Alene and Hayden both saw their fees overturned in court for lack of state legislation allowing them.

The cities and county will push for the same option Ada County communities have.

“I think that’s got a decent chance of getting through,” Taggart said.

A local-option sales tax for counties or cities, with at least half earmarked for property tax relief.

That would allow resort areas such as North Idaho to tap visitors to help fund a portion of local government services.

Local voters would have to approve the idea.

A fairer distribution of liquor taxes.

Taggart said this is the first time Kootenai County has had a lobbyist.

Some larger Idaho cities, most notably Boise, have used lobbyists in the past.

“That may explain why they have things we don’t have,” he said.

“As North Idahoans, we’re maybe not always getting our voices heard down there.”

, DataTimes

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