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Idaho House committee advances bill changing circuit breaker eligibility limits

Idaho State Capitol building in Boise on March 20, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
Idaho State Capitol building in Boise on March 20, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The bill is one of two different proposals to change eligibility requirements

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee advanced a bill to the House floor on Wednesday that would make changes to the eligibility requirements for Idaho’s circuit breaker property tax reduction program.

House Bill 481 involves the state’s circuit breaker program, which reduces property taxes for elderly, widowed or disabled homeowners.

If passed into law, House Bill 481 would make changes to a 2021 law, House Bill 389. That created a threshold of 125% of the country’s median value for a home to be eligible to participate in the circuit breaker program. That new threshold passed in the 2021 law was expected to result in 4,000 Idahoans no longer being eligible for the circuit breaker program in 2022.

House Bill 481 would increase that limit to 150% of the county’s median value, or $300,000, whichever is greater.

Rep. Charlie Shepherd, R-Pollock, said the purpose of the new bill is to restore eligibility to some of the Idahoans who would have no longer been eligible for the circuit breaker program.

“The reason for this legislation to try to help some of our residents in our counties who are on a fixed income, who had this tax break factored into their mortgages and now with us changing the rules last year, you know, they just cannot pay their mortgages or their taxes outright,” Shepherd said during the meeting.

Elmore County Assessor Josh Dison told legislators that the 125% threshold from the 2021 law would result in about 30 circuit breaker applicants, about 6.5% of the county’s total, losing eligibility.

Dison said Elmore County’s median home value in 2021 was $226,000. With the 125% threshold, that puts the threshold for participating in the circuit breaker program at $283,000.

“Unfortunately, in this housing market $283,000 isn’t a lot of house,” Dison said. “At one time that would have probably seemed impressive, but that’s kind of entry level at this point.”

Raising the threshold to 150% would increase the value limit in Elmore County to $339,000. With the 150% cap from the new bill, Dison said only 10 of the 30 applicants would lose eligibility in his county.

“I support this increase,” Dison added. “It is a great start to helping people to continue to stay in their homes and help pay their property taxes.”

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee then voted to send the bill to the House floor with a recommendation it passes.

Two circuit breaker program bills are circulating through the Idaho Legislature

House Bill 481 is one of two bills that would change the eligibility limits to the circuit breaker program.

The other bill is advancing through the Idaho Senate. On Tuesday, the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee sent Senate Bill 1241 to the Senate floor with a recommendation it passes. If passed into law, Senate Bill 1241 would raise the maximum eligible home value to 200% of the county median value, versus the 150% from House Bill 481. At 200% of median value, just three of the 30 Elmore County circuit breaker participants would lose out on eligibility to participate in the program, Dison said.

Either bill could be called to the respective legislative chamber’s floor for a vote before the end of the week.

If the House passes House Bill 481 and the Senate passes Senate Bill 1241, that could lead to a legislative showdown down the road because the bills appear to be in conflict.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state.