Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Notes from the Statehouse

Last week, I trekked over to the Statehouse, twice it turns out, to testify on HB 568 which would return all surplus property tax funds from urban renewal agencies to the real taxing districts. Right now urban renewal agencies collect property taxes within their boundaries and use them to service bonds for various projects like parking garages, streetscapes, water systems, roadways, whatever. They use the property taxes, or revenue allocation area revenues in tax speak, to pay off the bonds. What HB 568 does is target the excess.

I argued that highway districts still need to service the roads, cities still need to provide police and fire and school districts still need to educate the children living in the urban renewal areas. While we're speaking of only a small portion of overall tax valuation in the State of Idaho, nonetheless the urban renewal agencies have access to the taxes which flow from almost $4 billion in valuation. In Ada County alone, the tax valuation available only to the urban renewal agencies is over 3/4 of a billion dollars and in Canyon County it's over 1/2 of a billion dollars. It's unclear how much the surplus would be from year to year because of a number of factors like assessments, bond requirements, etc., but the issue is one of fairness.

I'll report on what the disposition of the bill is when something happens.

This was the first time I had seen the new and expanded Capitol. I was very impressed with the lower level. It's very warm and inviting. The hearing rooms are finished with rich looking woods and golden curtains and paint. The rooms are spacious, the seating comfortable, the acoustics grand. The lower level just bustles with energy.

The first floor - not so much, and the second as well. I was struck by the cleanliness of the spaces, but it's all marble. Very cold, almost like a mausoleum. There is very little in the way of decoration. All the statues the place used to hold have been exiled to somewhere with the exception of the gilded statue of Washington on his horse and the Nike of Samothrace, both of which are on the third floor. The first and second floors now seem superfluous which is sad. Hopefully, they will put some historical things out to draw people to those floors. Like where's the miner statue memorializing the Sunshine Mine disaster of May 2, 1972?

The Senate and House chambers have been refurbished and are nice, as they always were. The project was well done, as it should have been for $120,000,000.


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