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Is local option tax a viable option for Idahoans?

Some public officials say they can slash property taxes by imposing another tax, but critics aren’t sold on the idea.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Twin Falls is similar to Boise, in that it's a "hub city." That means a bunch of people from smaller nearby towns come into the hub city every day to work and shop, but then go home at the end of the day. That means the people from outside the hub city use the roads, public safety, and other infrastructure in the hub city. However, they do not pay the property tax in the hub city to fund the maintenance of it all.

Twin Falls Mayor Ruth Pierce says that means Twin Falls’ population doubles during the workday, from about 50,000 to about 100,000, with everyone commuting in. But only the 50,000 Twin Falls residents are paying the property taxes for the 100,000 people using the services.

The solution? The mayor, and mayors of hub cities around the state, would love to see a local option sales tax. That would mean taking a slight bump in the sales tax and putting that right back in the city.

The idea being that the people visiting the hub city pay the local option tax and help fund the city services and give property tax relief to residents.

"We can't control who wants to move here. But we want to make sure that we have the infrastructure to handle it," said Twin Falls Mayor Ruth Pierce. "We estimate a 1% tax could actually relieve our citizens about a third of their property taxes. But right now, cities don't have the ability to do that. Only resort cities do. And it's up to the legislature to give cities the ability to put it in front of their citizens on a ballot, and let the citizens decide if that's what they want."

And that's the problem for these hub cities. Only resort cities in Idaho can impose a local option tax. So, what are the chances of the legislature changing that and allowing hub cities like Twin Falls that option? Slim to none.

Current Speaker of the House Mike Moyle has long been a critic of this type of tax, calling local option taxing nothing more than an unneeded sales tax increase. And even if the law changes and they can put a local option sales tax in front of voters, Mayor Pierce calls it a "hard sell," simply because it is still a tax. But, as always, we'll keep an eye on it.

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