While other lawmakers are running legislation to put limits on urban renewal agencies, one lawmaker wants to pass a law completely removing authorization for them.
Rep. Robert Schaefer, R-Nampa, introduced a bill Thursday in the House Local Government Committee that would entirely repeal Idaho’s urban renewal law and require debts incurred by the agencies be retired.
This is the second time Schaefer has pushed a bill like this. He attempted it last year, but the measure didn’t make it out of committee.
The Nampa Republican is pushing the bill to send more money back to school districts, highway agencies and fire departments.
Urban renewal agencies are funded by increases in property taxes, money that would normally go to schools or other government entities if the agencies didn’t exist.
Schaefer said he is introducing the measure to get legislators talking about the problem he believes exists with urban renewal. “I’d like to have this printed so we can have expanded discourse about the real impact of urban renewal,” Schaefer said, adding that he believes urban renewal represents “legalized theft.”
Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, opposed the bill, saying her local urban renewal agency is providing a good service to her community. “In the city I live in, the urban renewal agency has done an absolutely excellent job,” Higgins said, though she acknowledged there have been problems with the entities in other areas of the state.
The measure was introduced with two lawmakers dissenting and will receive a thorough hearing in the next week.
The House Local Government Committee has considered three other bills to limit urban renewal agencies, including one to create elections for entity oversight boards.