An Idaho House committee will give a full hearing to a bill that would restrict cities’ use of local improvement districts to pay for infrastructure improvements without a vote by taxpayers, including the proposed streetcar project in downtown Boise.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, presented a bill to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee Feb. 8 that would require a vote for any projects that would require bonding of more than $250,000. He singled out the cities of Boise and Eagle for pursuing projects that he said are contrary to the intention of the law. Boise officials have been exploring the creation of a local improvement district to pay for part of a $60 million downtown streetcar project, while the Eagle City Council launched a district to buy a private water company before later backing off.
“In the past, LIDs have been used in a very limited way, mostly for small projects that affect a local community,” he said. “In the last few years, very creative people have used LIDs to address countywide or regional issues.”
Districts may be initiated with a petition signed by two-thirds of all property owners in a proposed district, or 60 percent of resident owners. A city council may also create one with a majority vote.
The House approved a similar bill to Labrador’s proposed bill in 2008 that would have required a petition or vote for all LID projects that required bonding, though it died in a Senate committee. Labrador said this proposal is “even a little bit more liberal” because it includes the $250,000 minimum requirement.
Still, some lawmakers on the committee wondered how many projects would fall under the threshold.
“That just doesn’t seem like a very high amount for physical improvements in a city area,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston.
Lawmakers on the committee also voted to consider two other bills. One would extend a law passed in 2008 that allows counties to grant property tax exemptions to businesses that spend $3 million building new manufacturing facilities in rural areas. The measure would extend the exemption to all areas of the state.
The other measure, designed to benefit Boise-based aircraft service company Western Aircraft, would give a sales tax rebate to out-of-state jet owners who repair their planes in Idaho.