Herndon’s ‘conservative’ playbook hasn’t changed

By Mike Weland

Mike WelandOn Saturday, Idaho First District State Senator Scott Herndon, in another of his bombastic campaign emails, berated Governor Brad Little for now taking credit for House Bill 292, which saved Herndon $379.16 on his property tax bill. Herndon now promises, without providing much detail, to begin working toward eliminating property taxes all together. Based on what he does share, it’s a flawed concept with little to no chance of accomplishing much of anything except impress those of his constituents who consider his rating as the “most conservative” Senator in Idaho as a good thing.

Scott HerndonAnd those in that singular clique will undoubtedly be reaching for their purses and wallets to help him fight those lying liberal Republicans of the swamp and their big-money donors out to unseat him in the May primary … offering some lucky donor who adds to his coffers by January 15 (but “you don’t have to donate in order to be entered to win”) a brand-new Colt M4 carbine for “free,” likely to fund more of the slickly-produced but egregiously wrong attack ads he filled Boundary and Bonner County folks’ mailboxes with in 2022.

Won’t the winner be surprised to receive the federal and state tax bills on a fancy “free” .22?

Yes, Herndon can still be counted on for ill-founded attacks on his rivals and peers alike and aping ad nauseum the familiar tropes of the new and radical GOP, ever playing the victim when called out or held to account.

In November, Herndon was one of three “conservative” Idaho senators, two of them (more importantly) members in good standing of the sorely misnamed Idaho Freedom Caucus, to hear from president pro tempore Chuck Winder for disparaging fellow senators and berating the senate itself.

“My next election is only 6 months away in the May 21, 2024, Republican primary, and I have an establishment opponent that is endorsed by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry,” IFC Senator Herndon wrote in a campaign email in response. “Senator Winder’s letter is curiously timed and written in a way to be used as a weapon against me during this election cycle. I am one of Idaho’s most conservative legislators, and my opponents will use power and money to try to get rid of me. There are two ways you can help: 1. Share this email. 2. Donate money to my campaign.”

Donate by January 15 for a chance to win your very own assault rifle.

Back to property taxes.

“It was people like me in the senate, who really cared about lowering property taxes, that resulted in the first override of a veto in the Idaho Legislature since the last veto override over 16 years ago,” he wrote, belittling Little for standing up for the legislation now after having vetoed the bill.

He goes on to promise that he will be carrying several bills to Boise in five weeks to begin the process of eliminating property taxes altogether.

“The secret is that there was enough state and federal money available last year that we could have almost eliminated your property taxes altogether,” he wrote. “In fact, when we started the 2023 legislative session, we were projecting an Idaho budget surplus of $1.5 billion. We could have cut your property taxes in half with that money alone and still kept all of the current governmental services. But instead of using the state budget surplus for property tax reduction, it was all spent on new governmental programs and state governmental spending increases well above the rate of inflation.”

He has it all worked out.

“First, ALL property taxes are local taxes,” he writes. “It is your county, your city, your local public schools, your fire districts, your libraries. They build their budgets and then go to your county assessor and treasurer to figure out your property tax bill and collect those taxes from you for local government services.

“But, the entire amount of the cost of local governments around the state of Idaho is $2.1 billion.

“We also have the state government and state governmental services, which you are funding through sales taxes and state income taxes – either personal income tax or business income tax. The state also receives money from the Federal government. In fact, in the current year, the state is getting $5.6 billion from the federal government.

“The current state spending for statewide governmental services is about $13.8 billion.

“So, local government, which you pay through property tax, is about $2 billion cost for the whole state of Idaho, and state government, which you pay through federal income taxes and state sales taxes and state income taxes, is $13.8 billion.

“If we spend less of the state money that you are paying in sales tax and income taxes, then we can use this money to fund local government and lower or eliminate your property taxes.”

So when he gets to Boise in January, he’ll begin by introducing bills to eliminate unnamed state government programs to stop the massive increase in spending for statewide programs. His several bills, he said, will eliminate some of what Idaho does.

“You have probably heard that once a government agency or program is created, it never goes away?” he wrote. “Well, I am bringing some bills that will make some of it go away. A novel concept, I know.

“I am also going to hold the line when state agencies ask to spend far more money this year than they spent last year or five years ago. Many agencies have been growing their spending way beyond the cost of inflation and the growth of the population of this state.”

Sorry there, Sparky, but eliminating property taxes, the least favorite of the triad (along with income and sales tax) that provide revenue for state, county and municipal governments, is not going to happen anytime soon, even though property owners dislike writing two big checks each year, one of them right around Christmas, no less, in an amount set by their county assessor over which they have no input. If there were a workable and less odious tax available, there would have never been instituted a property tax.

It’s a grandiose idea from our most “conservative” Senator, but one he hasn’t the knowledge or influence to ever bring about.

Yet there will be many voters who will believe he can and fervently support him just because he has the temerity to insinuate he can. Sound familiar?