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Governor Little boasts about property tax relief he vetoed

Governor Little boasts about property tax relief he vetoed

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
July 21, 2023

By Brian Almon and Fred Birnbaum

On Wednesday, Governor Brad Little’s office issued a triumphant press release, boasting about an additional $100 million in property tax relief that will be coming to homeowners due to a larger than expected year-end state budget surplus.

The release states, “Throughout the legislative session, Governor Little and the Legislature worked closely together to arrive at a property tax cut solution with enduring relief for Idahoans.”

While technically true, this leaves out the important detail that Gov. Little vetoed H292, the property tax relief bill, and it was only enacted because the House and the Senate overrode his veto — the first time that has happened in more than 15 years.

The governor justified his veto in a harsh message on March 27, stating that the bill was “a hodgepodge of policy items intermingled with property tax relief.” While the governor was not altogether wrong about this fact, the same can easily be said about House Bill 1 from the 2022 Extraordinary Session, which combined tax cuts with education funding. The governor also complained that H292 eliminated the March school levy election date, which is used by the education establishment to push tax increases due to low turnout. This is a surprising objection, given that House Bill 1 added $330 million to the public school income fund. 

Working with Senate allies, the governor hoped to kill H292 and replace it with an amended version of H198, a simple bill sponsored by Rep. David Cannon to reduce the amount of interest the tax commission could collect related to deficiencies. The amendments to H198 completely changed the bill and ensured that the education establishment was satiated by retaining the March election date. While the amended bill passed the Senate, the House killed the amendments after a clear and impassioned speech by Cannon stating that these were hostile amendments. Following the rejection of the amendments, Speaker Mike Moyle rallied his caucus to override the governor’s veto of H292, the original bill, with the support of 83% of the members. Following the strong House override, the Senate then took up the vote with 80% of members voting to override the veto.

Were there legitimate concerns that H292 would impact transportation funds as mentioned in the governor’s veto message? Perhaps there were, but those were addressed in a trailer bill, HB376. The governor could easily have suggested a trailer bill before vetoing H292 and attempting to add back the March election date via an amendment to H198. It is certainly not unprecedented — the governor used the trailer bill concept to rescue his Idaho Launch Grant policy this very session.

We bring all of this up to set the record straight: the governor’s support of H292 was nothing more than a battlefield conversion, and we primarily have House leadership to thank for property tax relief this year. This is to say nothing of the fact that the governor’s budget increased spending this year by an order of magnitude more than the tax relief he claims credit for returning.

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