Editor’s Note: We are providing this opinion piece by Bill Rutherford, the Democrat Candidate for Idaho State Senator in District 20, in order to assist our readers in understanding their political options. Our publication of this article does not constitute an endorsement of Mr. Rutherford or his positions.
This is a story about political greed and arrogance in our Idaho Legislature. There has never been a better example of self-serving legislation as HB-431, recently passed in 2016. Many, but not all of our elected representatives, supported this bill and here, captured in their own words, are the reasons. Many of them, including Chuck Winder, have completely lost touch with the people they are supposed to be serving. They have violated the public trust in my opinion.
The Mission of the Legislature
I’ll start off with a reference to the Legislature’s Mission statement from the Idaho Blue Book – (Page 145). The first paragraph reads as follows:
“The Idaho Legislature is committed to carrying out its mission in a manner that inspires public trust and confidence in elected government and the rule of law.”
In 2016, HB-431, co-sponsored by J. Holtzclaw R, (District 20 House) and supported by Chuck Winder and Joe Palmer also of District 20, was signed into law.
This bill placed a $100,000 Cap on the Homeowner’s Property Tax Exemption. The effect of this bill will be to raise Homeowner property taxes on property assessed at over $200,000 while lowering taxes on Commercial, Rental, Vacation and Farm property.
The following is a passage from the Spokesman Review article. I think it speaks for itself.
Some senators wanted to remove the exemption entirely. “This bill could’ve been better, it could’ve been a lot better. We could’ve taken this exemption completely off,” said Senate Tax Chairman Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton.
And Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, said businesses pay too much in taxes because homeowners get the exemption. “This homeowner’s exemption is a tax shift,” Mortimer said. “In my opinion it is very unfair, but it is the law. It is taxation without representation.” He said business owners don’t get to vote like homeowners. “I don’t get another vote for every business property that I own, so I really only have one vote when, in fact, I’m paying on multiple properties,” he said. “I as a business owner feel that we need the stability, and the homeowner’s exemption is definitely a shift to the business owner.”
According to the state Tax Commission, owner-occupied residential property, which qualifies for the homeowner’s exemption, paid 44.9 percent of all property taxes in the state in 2015. Commercial property was the next highest at 28.6 percent. Non-owner occupied residential property made up 19 percent. And all other categories, including agricultural, utility, mining and timber, were at low single-digit percentages.
The bill was pushed by the Idaho Association of Realtors and Agriculture and Business interest. It passed the Senate on a 23-11 vote after much debate; it earlier passed the House 55-15.
Chuck Winder, since 2009, has collected $3,750 from the Idaho Association of Realtors, $2,700 from Agra PAC (a large Idaho Agriculture PAC), and $6,500 from two Simplot groups in campaign finance contributions. Since 2009 Chuck Winder has received 87% of his political campaign money from Corporations and PACs. Winder is in the commercial real estate business as well as other legislators.
Action to Take
This bill financially benefits Winder’s political donors and legislators who own commercial, rental, vacation and farm property. To re-elect the legislators who put their self-interest above the voters is to reward and encourage more self-serving behavior.
I would work to repeal this legislation and re-institute the Idaho Housing Price Index used to set tax exemption values for homeowners.
Bill Rutherford is a fiscal conservative (D) who is a retired 64 year old professional engineer, former business owner and veteran from Meridian, Idaho running for State Senator in District 20 against Chuck Winder (R). He only accepts donations from individuals.