The discussion on personal property tax repeal isn't a new one.
Idaho Project 60, an initiative to grow the state's economy, focused largely on eliminating the tax on business equipment and tools, and the 2008 Legislature passed a bill that would exempt the first $100,000 of the assessed tax for businesses if the state's economy grew by 5 percent. Since last year, the Idaho Association for Commerce and Industry has been lobbying lawmakers to ax the tax, and the 2013 Legislature has seen three bills on getting rid of it either partially or completely.
Those hoping for full repeal have a new force to reckon with: The 30 House freshmen, many of whom recently served in elected or appointed local government positions, haven't been around for the years-long discussions on personal property tax, its burden on assessors and business owners and the revenue it provides for municipalities.
Among the House freshmen are county commissioners, city council members, mayors, school board members and highway district commissioners. Those districts are dependent on property taxes, and nearly every local taxing district in the state would be affected by a full repeal of personal property tax - especially if that money isn't replaced by state funds.
Political scientist David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, said the freshmen's recent ties with local governments likely affect their views on the issue.
"When you work for a particular institution or department, you begin to look at the world through the eyes of your department or organization," Adler said. Would a personal property tax proposal have had a better chance of passing in previous sessions? Adler said he thinks so.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, disagreed, saying the link isn't that clear.
"I think the counties have been very effective at making their case," Bedke said. "I think (the freshmen) are very inclined to listen to the views of local government. I think that they come predisposed to listening to them."
That doesn't mean veteran legislators don't have the same inclination, Bedke added.
Most of the freshmen interviewed agreed on one thing: They were worried about the revenue implications of a full repeal.
Rep. Paul Romrell, R-St. Anthony, served eight years as a county commissioner and 40 years as a county coroner. His link to local government gave him a multi-faceted view of the issue.
"I know the frustrations of the assessors," he said. "My assessor wants it to go away badly."
But, Romrell added, any repeal would have to hold harmless the small taxing districts.
"Regardless of what the issues are, the counties are at a 3 percent cap, and I know what that's like having been a commissioner and trying to put a budget together," Romrell said.
Rep Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly, agreed.
"I really don't like personal property tax. Period," he said. "But yet, how do we accomplish the repeal of that without harming local government?"
His 10 years on the Valley County Commission give him the background to understand how it might affect his community, he said.
'WE ALL WANT LESS TAXES'
Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, is a member of the Lewiston City Council. She said her own personal opinions influence her actions on both the city council and in the Legislature.
Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, served as the mayor of Twin Falls and on the City Council for almost 20 years before stepping down last year. He said he thinks his years on the city council have set him up well for the debate. He understands the budget constraints municipalities face, he said, and studied the issue closely before taking his oath of office in December.
Republican Rep. Clark Kauffman is a Filer Highway District commissioner, and has spoken of his concerns about a repeal without replacement money.
"I know we all want less taxes, but we still have to fund services," said Kauffman, who serves on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. "So that's the balance for me."
That's not the end of his local government ties: His wife, Debbie Kauffman, is Twin Falls County treasurer, and has discussed her concerns regarding a full personal property tax repeal at public meetings.
"I go home on the weekend and I hear 'Do no harm,' " Rep. Kauffman said.