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Bill would give citizens more say on property tax rates

By Bryan Searle

President, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

BOISE – A newly introduced bill in the Idaho Legislature would give Idaho citizens a real voice when it comes to determining property tax rates.

According to the bill, property taxpayers in Idaho currently only have two tools – commenting during budget hearings or electing new officials – to help them address the issue at the local level and neither of them “provides a meaningful way to engage in the budget process. Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature to provide taxpayers with additional tools to address the level of property tax to which they are subject by local taxing districts.”

The bill makes it crystal clear that Idaho’s local referendum and initiative processes can also be used when it comes to property taxes.

House Bill 273, introduced in the House State Affairs Committee March 3, clarifies that Idaho citizens can use the currently existing city or county initiative and referendum processes to reduce a city or county’s property tax portion of their budget.

According to the bill, if citizens are unhappy with a taxing district’s level of property taxes and they can convince a certain number of people to sign a petition, the citizens of a city or county can vote on whether their property taxes would go down.

This is what has been missing in the property tax debate over the past couple of decades – providing tools that taxpayers can use at the local level to have more say in the amount of taxes they are subject to.

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation supports this legislation, which empowers local taxpayers.

People are clamoring for property tax relief and don’t know how to get it. People want to be able to have more of a say in their property taxes and this is a fair way to do it.

It’s important to know that this proposed legislation isn’t going to allow anything to happen that is not in alignment with the will of the people.

The initiative and referendum processes are meant to do exactly that: provide a way for the will of the people to prevail. 

There is nothing sneaky or unfair about this bill. It simply makes it clear that Idaho’s existing initiative and referendum processes apply also to property taxes.

Because there is no real lobby for property taxpayers, Farm Bureau is trying to get the word out about the bill to as many people as possible so they can weigh in on the proposal if they choose to.

It’s important that legislators hear from citizens who are paying property taxes and not just certain lobby groups.

This bill gives property owners an opportunity to have a real say in the level of property taxes they’re subject to. They actually get to vote on it.

What’s not to like about that?

(Bryan Searle, a farmer from Shelley, is president of Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest general farm organization.)