OPINION: We found Moyle’s ‘widow woman’ in Kamiah | Opinion | lmtribune.com

2022-08-08 04:27:43 By : Mr. Dekai Huang

Clear skies. Low 59F. Winds light and variable..

Clear skies. Low 59F. Winds light and variable.

After traversing the state of Idaho and South America for nearly 40 years, the Rev. Michael St. Marie has returned to Lewiston to become the first homegrown priest of the All Saints Catholic Church parish.

The last time the Washington State football team featured tight ends in its offense, Charlie Sheen was raving about “tiger blood,” Adele was “Rolling in the Deep” and The Oprah Winfrey Show still was airing on television.

A year after he complained about the plight of a “widow woman’s tear-eyed pleas for relief from ruinous property taxes,” House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, went about kicking her out of her own home.

A year after he complained about the plight of a “widow woman’s tear-eyed pleas for relief from ruinous property taxes,” House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, went about kicking her out of her own home.

We just didn’t know her name.

Say hello to Joinne Gordon of Kamiah. In a letter elsewhere on this page, she outlines her dilemma.

Sixteen years ago, Joinne and her husband, David, purchased a 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bath home on 4 acres of land in the Pine Ridge subdivision for about $200,000.

David, an Army veteran, died three years ago.

Joinne turns 79 this week. And for an early birthday present, she got this notice: Her property taxes will more than double from about $457 last year to something near $1,180 next. If she can’t pay it, the state will gladly offer her the equivalent of a reversible mortgage — 3% interest collected on the unpaid tax and a lien that will be paid when she dies or sells the house.

For that, she has Moyle to thank.

For years, he has opposed adjusting the Homestead Exemption for years of rampant inflation in Idaho’s overheated housing market. It’s now capped at $125,000 — so any home assessed at more than $250,000 pays more than its fair share of property taxes.

The assessed value of Gordon’s home rose from $310,432 last year to $419,084 today.

Instead, in the closing days of the 2021 legislative session, Moyle rushed to passage a 26-page tax bill that, among other things, took aim at the Property Tax Reduction program, otherwise known as the circuit breaker.

Dating back to 1974, it was designed to help low-income elderly, disabled and veterans remain in their homes. Eligibility was limited to households earning $32,000 or less. In 2021, 26,916 households got help totaling $18.25 million.

To save a few bucks, Moyle inserted a means test. If a House was worth 25% more than the median value within its county, the owner would be disqualified from receiving the tax break.

And rather than repeal this cruel law the first chance they got earlier this year, state lawmakers nibbled around the edges.

Sen. Regina Bayer, R-Meridian, offered the most generous plan. She would have moved the means test up to 200% of a county’s median housing values. That would have restored benefits to an estimated 92.5% of the people affected.

Bayer’s bill passed unanimously in the Senate. But over at the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, where Moyle is in charge, the measure died a quick death. In its place was a plan offered by Rep. Charlie Shepherd, R-Riggins — who just happens to be Gordon’s elected legislator — that disqualified anyone whose home was worth 150% of a county’s median housing value or $300,000, whichever is greater.

That left about a third of the people affected by Moyle’s bill out in the cold.

Had the Senate version prevailed, Gordon would have retained her circuit breaker benefit. But Shepherd’s formula means Gordon is on the hook for an extra $721 in taxes.

Nothing else in her personal finances has changed.

She relies on Social Security and augments that by driving a school bus.

She lives frugally and has a small veterans loan on her home.

“I’ve done everything right,” she said. “I don’t have any credit card debt. I don’t have any outstanding bills. I just have my car payment and my house payment. I don’t think it’s fair. I look around me. People are lining up at the food bank, many of them older people. What is this going to do to them now? Some of the people don’t know about the circuit breaker. But if they did know about it, it’s a big help.”

Preliminary numbers from the State Tax Commission indicate about 1,000 low-income homeowners received letters like Gordon’s. Among them were:

l Idaho County — 77 households, or about 12.1% of the 635 that applied, will lose the benefit.

l Clearwater County — 25 households, or about 7.2% of the 346 applicants, will be disqualified.

l Latah County — 29 homeowners, or about 5.9% of the 488 households that once qualified will be denied.

l Lewis County — There are seven homeowners — or 5.4% of the 130 applicants — who will be turned down.

l Nez Perce County — Of the 871 households that once qualified for circuit breaker relief, 25 — or 2.9% — will now pay the full tax.

Idaho doesn’t need their money.

It is sitting on top of a $1.4 billion surplus.

Only a state leadership without a sense of shame would do this. — M.T.

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