Pernicious property taxes in Idaho have grown at an unsustainable rate for years, outstripping inflation and Idahoans’ income growth. Idahoans, from single mothers and working families to struggling seniors, are forced to scrimp and save to afford these taxes and maintain a roof over their head. The coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis that followed only exacerbated these daily challenges.
Residents often call the Idaho Freedom Foundation, expressing their concern and asking for help when it comes to property tax burdens. To spur much-needed relief, IFF launched a campaign against wasteful government spending in 2019. The Foundation showed how government growth fed into increased property taxes, and the campaign accomplished public education and legislative outreach that would drive a significant victory in 2020.
When the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation, Congress appropriated massive amounts of money to the states through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Idaho received $1.25 billion in federal dollars, but strangely that money could not be put towards tax relief. Fortunately, a Network coalition was able to demonstrate to Congress just how important tax relief would be, opening the door for IFF’s property tax relief plan.
Though IFF saw that lowering taxes would be the best way to alleviate economic suffering, many in Idaho’s Legislature clamored for increased spending—and subsequently higher taxes—to provide “relief” to citizens. IFF explained that merely increasing taxes by less than originally planned was not a tax break. Instead, IFF argued for true relief.
Idaho Freedom Foundation released a plan for Idaho to cover localities’ property tax burden, lessening the strain on the residents of those communities. The proposal would direct $200 million of Idaho’s CARES Act funds toward property tax relief (out of $1.25 billion available). IFF championed this solution through community education efforts and relationships they had built with the governor’s office and legislators. The Idaho Governor estimated that IFF’s plan could provide a 10 to 20 percent reduction on Idahoans’ property bills, helping residents save money through the pandemic-induced recession.
Shortly after releasing this plan, the Idaho Governor included IFF in his “Coronavirus Financial Action Committee.” Although government agencies were heavily overrepresented on the committee compared to taxpayers, IFF built a diverse coalition of support, including the Lieutenant Governor and Head of the Division of Financial Management. IFF brought people together because they focused on tax relief as a bipartisan issue. Both left-leaning and right-leaning Idaho media outlets published stories of seniors losing their homes due to unmanageable tax burdens. After IFF built this broad coalition, the committee included property tax relief in its recommendation to the governor.
On June 8, 2020, the Idaho Governor adopted IFF’s proposal, providing up to $200 million in property tax relief to homeowners. By presenting reliable research and reaching out to new allies, IFF summoned support for genuine relief for Idaho’s taxpayers.
For IFF and the people of Idaho, this victory is encouraging because it has the potential to seed additional tax reforms in the future. Idahoans are now accustomed to tracking their property taxes and will be more aware of increases in the future. Even with this reform enacted, the governor has pledged to do more next session to relieve Idahoans of burdensome taxes.
Idaho Freedom Foundation secured a win for their home state and brought financial relief and peace of mind to communities, families, and individuals during this difficult time. IFF’s work earned them a nomination for the Bob Williams Awards for Public Policy and secured their place as a finalist in the Biggest Home State Win category. Congratulations to Idaho Freedom Foundation for this significant win for Idaho taxpayers!