AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho - The push by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry to pass legislation for an all-out personal property tax exemption in Idaho has many cities and counties worried.
Losing that tax base will force counties to either put an unfair burden on families or drastically cut services, said Power County Commission Chairwoman Vicki Meadows.
If the proposed bill passes, Power County stands to lose 48.8 percent of its revenue, or $4.5 million, Meadows said.
A third of that money would come from the American Falls School District, where students' Idaho state coloring projects hang on the office walls. Superintendent Ron Bolinger said, if the legislature passed this, there might not be a place to hang any projects in the future. The school district gets about $1.3 million from personal property taxes, that equates to 15 percent of its budget, he said.
"Well it would be more than cuts," Bolinger said. "For that kind of revenue, it's more like a collapse."
This isn't just a Power County issue, Bolinger said, but an issue that will affect everyone in the state.
At the Power County Hospital District, passing the proposed legislation could put the hospital in critical condition.
"A year after this passes, if it were to pass, I would suspect that we would be struggling to keep doors open anywhere," said CEO and Administrator Dallas Clinger.
The hospital district may have to close the emergency room and send patients to Pocatello for immediate care, taking away precious emergency room time, Clinger said. The district may also have to re-house nursing home patients, adding to the cost families spend on visitation, he said.
"And that's going to be a devastating thing for our small community here," Clinger said.
Meadows and her husband Bill would actually stand to benefit financially from the passing of the legislation. They own Mountain States Oil Seeds, a seed processing company, where Meadows showed off the parts of the company that would be exempt under the proposal.
"Idaho Commerce and Industry would like it to be anything involved in production and that is all of this, and that is all of this," she said, gesturing toward the row of giant graneries in front of her.
Nearly everything in the Mountain States Oil Seeds plant would be allowed to be exempt, saving the business $22,000 in property taxes. But, the Meadows still oppose the exemption, and Bill Meadows said it comes down to looking at who would benefit from it. He said the money would just go to line the pockets of big business owners.
"If I save $20,000 on my taxes, and I don't have any new business, do I need any new employees? No. I would keep the money for myself," he said.
In order to make up for the loss in revenue, every man, woman and child in Power County would owe an extra $600 in taxes, Meadows said.
Meadows does support an exemption up to $100,000, she said, because it would cover the majority of businesses in Idaho from being taxed for things like staplers, computers and chairs.