HB666 just passed the house on Monday. It provides that librarians, teachers and museum workers can face up to a year in jail for providing “material harmful to a minor.” It is not clear what this encompasses, but the statutory language would seem to cover Judy Blume books and who knows what else. I opposed it on due process grounds – if we are worried about inappropriate materials in libraries, it should be handled through the process for materials selection, not by incarcerating librarians. I am hopeful the Senate will hold this bill in committee.
There are many, many voting restriction bills right now – at least six, with more on the way:
- Both HB547 and SB1376 make it a crime to deliver someone else’s ballot. Both are in the Senate State Affairs Committee awaiting hearings.
- Both SB1375 and HB692 prevent voter registration using student IDs, and place many other restrictions on permissible voting documentation.
- HB693 bans ballot drop boxes.
- HB439 prevents unaffiliated voters from switching their registration after the candidate filing deadline.
- We are creeping along toward a higher education budget that will provide a budget increase, but that raids the universities’ rainy day funds to do so. Seems like an odd thing to do in a year of record surpluses.
- We remain hopeful that we will get some kind of all-day kindergarten but it’s not there yet.
- A few other hot-button bills were killed in the House, most notably a vouchers bill and a requirement for drug-testing for substitute teachers.
HB741 was finally introduced to end all owner-occupied property tax and replace it with an 8% sales tax – the highest state sales tax in the country. I have 5 major concerns with this:
- It would put essential services like fire and police on the most volatile source of funding. Sales tax revenues crater during a recession. Let’s not defund the police!
- It will devastate retailers on the border. Almost every state around us has a far lower (or in some cases zero) state sales tax. People will cross the border for major purchases, and any Idaho retailer within 30 miles of a border will be hit hard.
- Per point #2 above, the projected revenue from this bill assumes sales activity will remain constant in the face of a 33% sales tax increase. But in reality, consumers will respond by shopping out of state, and in-state sales will drop. This plan therefore will likely yield less funding for local governments than what they presently collect from property tax. Thus, services like police and fire will likely take a hit even before a recession hits.
- Should local governments not get enough money from the sales tax hike, which they likely won’t for the reasons described above, they will be forced to make up the difference by hiking property taxes on non-owner occupied property, driving rents up. Renters will undoubtedly bear the brunt of this.
- Sales tax is by far the most regressive form of taxation. This plan will shift many millions in tax liability away from wealthy mansion-owners onto low income people.
There are many responsible ways to reduce property taxes while leaving vital services intact, but in my opinion this is not one of them. I’m hoping there is still time for better property tax solutions to move forward.