In my last column I spent a great deal of time discussing the state’s decision to provide special handouts to a luxury hotel in Ketchum, I didn’t have a chance to discuss another attempt to play favorites via tax policy in the 2015 legislative session.
The state Department of Commerce will ask lawmakers to expand a property tax exemption that county commissioners get to award. According to the department’s own description of the proposal, “county commissioners have suggested that the limited scope of the property tax exemption – namely that it requires $3 million in capital investment and can only be used to support manufacturing projects – has been a limiting factor in supporting businesses that would have provided a boost to the local economy.”
The department will ask to expand the exemption so that it isn’t limited to manufacturing and lower the capital investment to $1 million for rural counties and $2 million for urban. Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer said the exemption has been used to as the local government’s financial “match” for state-supported projects.
As with other programs and proposals, this one again seeks to pick winners and losers. Current law says you have to pay your property taxes—unless county officials decide that you don’t. That’s not only goofy, it’s unfair and possibly violates the principle enshrined in our state constitution that taxes should be uniform.
If lawmakers really want to encourage economic development, the best way to do that is to lower taxes for everyone, not just a select few who happen to gain special dispensation from the government.
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