The 2006 Tax Shift Still Divides Idaho Leaders

Aug 25, 2016

Sen. Shawn Keough, co-chair of the Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. A decade ago, geography placed Keough at the center of the property tax debate.
Credit Idaho Ed News

Ten years ago today, Jim Risch was a governor in a hurry.

Appointed in May 2006, Risch was halfway through a seven-month term when he convinced the Legislature to sign off on one of his top priorities.

Risch’s bill to slash property taxes for public schools by $260 million passed on Aug. 25, 2006, at the end of a one-day special legislative session.

The tax overhaul, House Bill 1, forced schools to rely on state sales and income taxes for a larger piece of their budget pie. Critics say the law left schools vulnerable to the ravages of the Great Recession that followed; when state tax collections dropped, so too did state funding for K-12. Ultimately, the Risch plan did cut property taxes. But because of its built-in sales tax increase, it provided no real tax relief.

Now a U.S. senator, Risch stands by his plan. He says it addressed the public’s unrest over property taxes — a sentiment that had been building up long before the 2006 special session.

“I had always felt the wrath of the Idaho taxpayer against property taxes,” Risch said in a recent interview.

A decade later, opinions on both sides of the 2006 debate remain as strong as ever.

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