State Politics

Ada County still waiting on lawmaker to say why it shouldn’t collect her back taxes

Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.
Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.

The Ada County Assessor’s Office is still awaiting a response from Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings as to why the White Bird Republican deserved the $1,200 tax break she received in 2016.

The office sent Giddings a “notice of intent” last November, saying it intends to collect taxes after she erroneously received a homeowners exemption on her Garden City home. At the time, she resided in Idaho County and received an exemption there as well.

The letter gave her 10 days to dispute the claim. Prior to that deadline, though, Giddings requested and received a temporary stay, based on a federal law that provides relief from civil actions for active-duty military personnel.

The first-term lawmaker is an officer in the Air Force Reserve and was on active duty last fall. However, she has been serving in the Legislature since the session began Jan. 8.

Giddings has declined to be interviewed this session, saying questions must be emailed to her. She did not respond to an email inquiry asking what was preventing her from addressing the county notice and explaining her position.

She technically has until April 1 to respond to the notice, because of the temporary stay. Yet it doesn’t appear her legislative duties have been so onerous that she couldn’t find time to resolve the dispute, though she did take the time to produce a YouTube video recently that calls for nominations for statewide “fake news” awards.

During the first two weeks of the session, the House voted only on one bill. Other than Jan. 8, when the governor presented his State of the State address, none of the morning floor sessions lasted more than 27 minutes. The Friday sessions Jan. 12 and 19 lasted eight minutes and 10 minutes, respectively.

“It’s really odd that she hasn’t had time to set this issue straight,” said Ada County Assessor Bob McQuade.

Giddings doesn’t need to go to the assessor’s office to explain her position. She just has to submit a letter saying why she thinks she qualified for the tax break.

Under state law, she would have qualified for the exemption on her Garden City residence only if she considered that to be her permanent home. However, she was living in Idaho County and was registered to vote there. Had that not been the case, she would not have been eligible to run for office in the 7th Legislative District.

When the question first came up whether she qualified for the tax break, Giddings maintained that she’d done nothing wrong. Given that this is an election year, the Legislature will be pushing hard to adjourn before April 1. Consequently, it’s possible that Giddings could go back on active duty before her temporary stay expires.

McQuade said that wasn’t an option he’d considered.

“If that happens, I’ll have to get with our legal counsel and seek advice,” he said.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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