IDAHO LAWMAKERS PREPARE TO TALK TAXES, MEDICAID

Melissa Davlin reports:  This week, Magic Valley lawmakers are gearing up for the legislative session by visiting with local government officials and Chamber of Commerce members.

Legislators will meet with the Twin Falls City Council tonight to discuss issues likely to come up that may affect the city.

On the table: A personal property tax repeal.

Personal property tax is paid by businesses owners on moveable property, such as equipment, shelves and furniture. Lawmakers like Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, say it is especially burdensome for small business owners. But the Legislature also has to remember that the tax provides a key revenue source for some cities, counties and other taxing districts, Hartgen noted.

“The trick with that is to not front-load it” by giving benefits to business owners without generating money necessary to run local government, Hartgen said

In 2012, the city of Twin Falls collected $954,953 in personal property taxes, nearly 6 percent of its property tax collections. With Chobani coming to town, that amount will go up.

Twin Falls City Councilman Shawn Barigar said he is interested to hear legislators’ take on the state budget.

Both Barigar and Hartgen said the local option sales tax will likely come up. A local option tax allows cities to add an additional sales tax within city limits. Currently, resort towns are the only Idaho cities allowed to do so. Twin Falls has long pushed for the authority to raise sales taxes within city limits.

Hartgen, who is opposed to local option sales tax, said cities have other means to raise revenue for needed projects, such as bonds, and that an increased sales tax may drive business to neighboring counties.

Barigar disagreed.

“The toolbox is pretty light on what we can do locally to address those needs,” Barigar said.

This week, legislators are likely to discuss upcoming health-related decisions, Hartgen said, such as whether to expand Medicaid and establish a state-based insurance exchange, as well as what to do with education after voters struck down Propositions 1, 2 and 3.

RFB:

The Twin Falls City Council meets with lawmakers at 5 p.m. today at the Twin Falls City Council Chambers, 305 3rd Ave. E. in Twin Falls.

On Wednesday, lawmakers are meeting with the Twin Falls County commissioners at 4 p.m. at the Twin Falls County Courthouse, 425 Shoshone St. N.

On Thursday, lawmakers tour Canyon Ridge High School at 9 a.m., then meet with Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce members for lunch.

All meetings are open to the public. RSVP is required for the Thursday Chamber event; call 733-3974.

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