BOISE — More older, low-income Idahoans would be eligible for property tax assistance under legislation passed by Idaho House in a 48-16 vote on Friday.
House Bill 481 attempts to fix a problem created by lawmakers last year, when they added a new rateable value cap to the circuit breaker program.
The Circuit Breaker Program provides up to $1,500 in annual property tax relief to seniors and disabled people who earn less than approximately $32,000 per year.
In an effort to prevent people who own high-value homes from receiving a taxpayer subsidy, the Legislature last year added a new requirement limiting the program to homes whose assessed value is less than 125% of the median of the county.
Given rising home prices across the state, that meant about 2,000 Idahoans who previously qualified for the circuit breaker would no longer be eligible.
Rep. Charlie Shepherd, R-Pollock, said HB 481 is an effort to address this issue and “help some of our lifelong older Idahoans with their property taxes.”
His bill increases the assessed value cap to 150% of the county median or $300,000, whichever is greater.
Shepherd noted that there is a competing Senate bill that increases the cap to 200%, with no minimum dollar amount.
The problem with this approach, he said, is that it benefits urban areas at the expense of rural Idaho.
In Ada County, for example, the 200% threshold would cover homes worth more than $750,000, while in Lewis County it would only cover homes worth $287,000. .
“So on the one hand we’re helping people who have houses worth three-quarters of a million dollars, but on the other hand we’re not helping people whose houses (are worth) less than $300. thousand dollars,” Shepherd said. “I want to be careful before I make the same mistake we made last year by not giving that tax benefit to the people who need it most.”
There was virtually no indoor debate on the legislation.
Representatives Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, and Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, opposed the measure. All other representatives from north-central Idaho supported the bill.
HB 481 is now going to the Senate for further action. His fate is unclear, given that senators previously backed the alternative proposal by 200% on a 34-0 vote.