Bills we’re watching this week: Common Core, property tax freeze, and grocery tax repeal

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Things in the Idaho Capitol are about to get crazy. 

Well, as crazy as things regulated by “Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure” can get. 

Still, this week is going to be lit. 

Below is a partial list of legislation the Idaho Freedom Foundation is watching, along with each bill’s 2020 Idaho Freedom Index rating, if there is one.

House Bill 409 Statewide property tax freeze (Idaho Freedom Index analysis & score)

Property taxes are out of control. This onerous tax is driving seniors from their homes and driving fear deep into the hearts of middle-class homeowners who struggle to get by. Rising property values and overboard spending by many local governments are a one-two punch to the gut for many Idaho families and businesses. 

This measure would freeze property tax budgets for one year, giving lawmakers time to cook up a long-term solution. The Idaho Freedom Foundation estimates the measure would save taxpayers roughly $113 million during the one-year freeze. 

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee will hear the bill Tuesday morning at 9:00 am in EW42. 

RS27644 Grocery tax removal 

Monday morning’s House Revenue and Taxation Committee agenda boasts three grocery tax repeal bills. This particular measure, RS27644,  was written by Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-Whitebird, a longtime advocate of grocery tax repeal. 

No one, except Giddings, is certain what’s in this bill, as it’s not yet available for public inspection. That said, Giddings introduced a grocery tax repeal bill earlier this year, and that measure likely provides some guidance. Her earlier bill, now stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee, would repeal the grocery tax and end the goofy grocery tax credit. 

This will be a key topic to watch, as the other two proposals the committee will likely introduce tomorrow morning could provide different answers to the same problem — how to end Idaho’s taxes on groceries. 

Common Core repeal 

There’s no bill number here, as Common Core is etched into the state’s administrative rule book. The Senate Education Committee will likely take up Common Core repeal on Tuesday afternoon, less than a week after the House Education Committee voted to toss the disastrous education standards. 

It’s unlikely that the Senate Education Committee will go along with the House’s wise decision. Instead, the Senate wants more time to study the issue. At least that’s how it appears. 

Senate Education Committee Vice Chair Steven Thayn, a Republican from Emmett, wrote about the standards last week in his newsletter. Said Thayn: 

I think we can follow the lead of Florida who [sic] recently replaced the Common Core Standards. They did this by taking a year to replace the standards and then, with new standards in hand, replaced old Common Core Standards. I believe Idaho will probably do something very similar.

Will that be enough for House members? Time will tell. 

House Bill 413 City council elections, districts (Idaho Freedom Index analysis & score)

This bill would allow larger Idaho cities to implement districts for city council seats. Proponents believe this will lead to better representation because council members will speak for different parts of the city and not just one area. 

The House State Affairs Committee will consider this bill at 9:00 am Monday. 

House Concurrent Resolution 30 PERSI cost of living

Look, I’m not saying the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho’s board has lost its damn mind, but I’m not not saying it, either. 

Goodness. The board, which receives little to no press coverage, approved late last year a 6.54% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for state retirees, a move that could cost the state pension fund $374 million next year. 

Keep in mind that the state pension fund contributions are the highest they’ve ever been, which costs the state and local governments see also: taxpayerstons of cash. And even after huge stock market increases, the state pension fund still isn’t fully funded. 

Boosting the COLA by 6.54% was an incredibly irresponsible decision, one that has the potential to further burden Idaho’s property tax payers. 

This resolution, which needs only House and Senate approval, would cut the COLA to a healthier 1.7%, which would save the fund more than $300 million next year. 

To follow along with the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s coverage of the 2020 legislative session and Idaho Freedom Index bill ratings, join the Foundation’s private Facebook group here