Cable television companies in Idaho have been getting off cheap on their property tax assessments, forcing other taxpayers to pick up the slack, says a veteran Idaho Tax Commission member.

Cable franchise managers who've seen their 1988 property tax valuations skyrocket are claiming discrimination. But Tax Commissioner Carol Dick says it's the rest of the taxpayers who have been discriminated against.Cable companies across the state have been protesting the increases, and some have threatened court action. Most are talking about increasing monthly fees to offset the increased costs.

Cablevision of Moscow has seen its property value jump from an appraisal of $1.3 million last year to $3.7 million in 1988. The higher valuation raised the company's Latah County property tax bill three-fold, and Cablevision officials are talking about passing on the charges to customers.

Unless the company can successfully appeal the appraisal, Moscow customers of the company will see their basic bill of $15.40 a month increase from an expected 75 cents to a $1 a month beginning in February.

"Oh, it creates a good hue and cry when the cable companies say we have to charge you (customers) more because they raised our taxes," said Dick, who has served 10 years on the commission. "But is it fair for people who don't have cable to pick up part of the tax burden of the cable company because they (cable companies) have not been appraised at market value like everybody else?"

Until this year, assessors figured taxes for cable television companies based on the value of personal property, which is equipment and land. But for 1988 taxes, the commission also directed assessors to consider the income cable companies receive and the market value each business would likely sell for. Assessors were told to place the greatest weight on the company's income.

Latah County assessor Lois Griswold carried out the directions, and the resulting appraisal upped Cablevision's tax bill from $24,488 last year to $78,655 in 1988. Company officials will appeal on Jan. 4 to the Latah County Commission, sitting as the county's Board of Equalization.

Dick says the commission is simply trying to maintain fairness in the tax system.

"We, as a commission, are charged with seeing that the property tax system in Idaho works fairly and it can only work fairly when all kinds of property are assessed fairly under the law," she said. "It doesn't make any difference if the property is a house, an industrial plant, a small business or a cable TV company."