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Idaho Senate overrides Gov. Brad Little’s veto of property tax bill


Idaho Senate overrides Gov. Brad Little’s veto of property tax bill

Mar 29, 2023 | 8:31 pm ET
By Clark Corbin
Idaho Senate overrides Gov. Brad Little’s veto of property tax bill
Idaho Gov. Brad Little gives his State of the State speech in the House chambers of the State Capitol building on Jan. 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The Idaho Senate voted Wednesday to override Gov. Brad Little’s veto of a property tax bill, joining the Idaho House of Representatives in passing property tax reductions into law despite the governor’s veto.

Following a short debate, the Senate voted 28-7 to override the veto of House Bill 292. A day earlier, the Idaho House of Representatives voted 58-12 to override Little’s veto

“Our Idaho residents have been clamoring for property tax (cuts) for a very, very, very long time,” Sen. Chris Trakel, R-Caldwell, told senators shortly before the override vote. “We are extremely close to making that happen for once, for the first time in a long time. So just remember who you are here to work for. Is it the schools? Is it (Little)?”

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, was the only person to argue against overriding the veto on the Senate floor. She said she had serious reservations about one aspect of the bill that eliminates the state’s March election date, when many school districts run elections for school bonds and levies.

“One of the major reasons for that veto is what it does for election dates for school bonds and levies and that this bill basically cripples schools, potentially, in the future because 80% of the bonds and levies that get passed are at that time,” Wintrow told senators.

Gov. Brad Little responds to veto overrides on property tax bill

The property tax bill originally passed both legislative chambers with a bipartisan supermajority of support. The Idaho House originally voted 63-7 to pass the bill, and the Idaho Senate originally voted 32-3 to pass it. 

Although the Idaho Legislature voted to override his veto Wednesday, Little put out a statement moments after the vote saying he champions the property tax cuts and believes a new “trailer bill” to the property tax bill fixes several of the issues he identified when he first vetoed the bill.

“Idahoans are clamoring for additional tax relief, and the Legislature’s actions are a step in the right direction on this longstanding issue,” Little said in the written statement.

When Little vetoed House Bill 292 on Monday, he expressed concerns with elements of the bill that have nothing to do with property tax. Little said he opposes eliminating the March election date. Little also said the bill jeopardizes funding for transportation projects.

The Idaho House of Representatives responded Tuesday with House Bill 376, a trailer bill to House Bill 292 that specifies a set amount of money is continuously appropriated for transportation funding. House Bill 376 also addressed Little’s concerns that House Bill 292 shifted the priority for distributing sales tax collections. Legislators said those changes fix the transportation concerns and also addressed concerns about funding for public defense.

But the bills do not address Little’s concerns over removing the March election date. The March election date will now be eliminated. 

After Wednesday’s vote, Little said the changes in the trailer bill resulted in a simpler, better property tax package.

“I’m also pleased the Legislature fixed concerns I identified in my veto of House Bill 292 – transportation bonding and public defense funding,” Little said in the written statement. “The process worked, and we are getting real property tax relief done for Idahoans.”

The Idaho Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to pass House Bill 376, the trailer bill, shortly before overriding Little’s veto on the property tax bill. The bill is called a trailer bill in legislative lingo because it follows behind the previous bill, House Bill 292. 

Property tax issues have been a major issue during the 2023 legislative session

Property taxes have been one of the major issues of the 2023 legislative session. A recent Boise State University public policy survey found that property tax rates are one of the most pressing issues for Idahoans. Little opened the session by calling for property tax relief in his Jan. 9 State of the State address.  

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Overriding Little’s veto may bring closure to the property tax debate for the year and provide a path for the Idaho Legislature to wrap up its business for the year once the Idaho Senate clears its backlog of gubernatorial appointments and bills on its reading calendar. 

The Idaho House also moved another step closer to adjournment on Wednesday by passing the rewritten fiscal year 2024 Medicaid budget, which had been killed and rewritten. 

If legislators elect to close down the session like they did last year, they may vote on all the remaining bills and budgets and then go at recess for a few days to see if Little vetoes any other late-session bills. Under that scenario, legislators could return to the Idaho State Capitol in Boise next week or whenever Little acts on the final bills to formally adjourn the session for the year “sine die.” Going at recess for a few days rather than immediately adjourning preserved the ability for legislators to attempt to override any other vetoes that may be coming.