The 2013 legislative session won’t wrap up tomorrow, as many hoped. But lawmakers have come to near-unanimous agreement on an issue we’ve tracked closely: the business personal property tax. A bill backed by the Idaho Association of Counties passed the Idaho Senate on Tuesday without opposition.
I decided to
follow up with Power County Commissioner Vicki Meadows. We met in January, when it wasn’t at all clear how lawmakers would handle the push to repeal the tax on business equipment and machinery.
The tax generates $140 million dollars annually for local government, and Meadows’ county relies on that revenue more than most. Two months ago, she said she thought Power County might have to be dissolved if the tax went away.
“I don’t even know how that works!” she told me. “I don’t even know if the Legislature knows how that works. I don’t know if there’s ever been a county dissolved.”
At first I didn’t follow what she was saying. Did she actually think that was a possibility?
“I think it’s something that we have to look at,” she said.
When I reached Meadows by phone this week, she said she’s relieved by the bill that ultimately passed.
“This has taken a large load off of everybody’s shoulders, mine included,” she said.
“I think the Legislature is becoming more aware of how this affects and impacts local government and their citizens that use local services,” she said. “There has to be a happy medium.”
She believes legislation that emerged is just that. The bill exempts the first $100,000 of business personal property from taxation for all businesses. That frees 90 percent of Idaho business owners from paying the tax, but preserves much of the revenue it generates each year.
The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry maintains that the bill singles out Idaho’s large businesses and treats them unfairly. President Alex LaBeau says his organization will keep pushing for a full repeal.