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State representatives head to Bingham County

From Boise to Blackfoot, three members from the state legislature met with representatives from the Idaho Association of Counties Monday to discuss local issues that could possibly effect local businesses.

The IAC is made up of county commissioners, the county clerk, and other elected local government officials.

Monday’s amicable meeting gave the commissioners a chance to discuss the long-running, hot-button issue of repealing the personal property tax with the state legislatures after nearly four years of this issue being tossed around the House of Representatives.

The personal property tax is a levy placed on businesses in the community, in which the revenue the government earns goes toward funding necessary programs such as education and juvenile corrections.

As a matter of fact, with the cost of living increasing every year and the amount of government funding being slashed at the same rate of speed, the juvenile corrections center has already seen its first cut. While the program had not used the maximum amount of money it was allotted this past year, the state government cut spending on the center once again this year. Now the county is seeing $106,000 given toward running the entire correctional facility.

But the controversy lies with the businesses contesting the tax, saying it is unfair and it should be repealed. Every year these businesses are required to pay a tax on everything from the staplers they own and chairs they sit in to the pictures hanging on the walls.

Husband and wife Clem and Pam Metz own Martha’s Cafe in Blackfoot. As small business owners, they agree this tax is not fair.

“When I bought my equipment – chairs, dishes, miscellaneous items to stay in business, I paid tax on them originally and I feel I shouldn’t have to pay a tax on them year after year,” Metz said. “I really don’t pay too much, but it’s in between $300-400. But it’s still $300-400 that’s unfair to pay every year.”

Those who are in favor of the tax are saying that repealing this tax could cut spending to these programs, which will eventually require the state government to step in and pick up the slack by replenishing the lost dollars.

Government officials at Monday’s meeting all agreed this is a complicated issue and cannot be solved in one day. They also said this is not a black-and-white issue, and they need to first and foremost clearly define what a personal property tax entails in order for them to come to any sort of decision.

“We’re going to have to make those types of decisions,” District 28 Sen. Steve Bair said. “Get that definition first of what actually constitutes personal property tax before we can then make a decision on whether to repeal, or how much to repeal, or whether to leave it alone.”

Others who were in attendance at the meeting were saying the small businesses were the ones who had been hit the hardest when the economy took a dive back in 2008. With the small businesses as the backbone entity to spur on economic growth, Monday’s speakers said they need to do what they can to preserve these mom and pop shops. One option they proposed would be to repeal the personal property tax solely for small businesses.

“We want Idaho and we want our county to be business-friendly,” Bingham County Clerk Sara Staub said. “We want to encourage business. You have to give perks for businesses to come in. And one of the problems in Idaho is the personal property tax.”

The government’s total budget currently sits at slightly more than $27 million. Out of that lump sum, Staub said 8.8 percent of the $749, 221 total revenue the government earned was from the personal property tax.

So although this issue will not be put passed through the House until this year’s legislative session begins, both the IAC and the state legislatures were adamant their goal is working together for the well-being of the community.

It is also important to note the personal property tax is not affiliated with the taxes individuals and individual homeowners pay.

You can follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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