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Monday, January 08, 2007

Otter: No mention of transit

Gov. Butch Otter made no mention of local option taxing authority in his State of the State address today - a somewhat surprising fact considering the issue is one of the most critical to the Treasure Valley. But with many local officials from both parties lining up behind the idea, here's hoping it will get a fair hearing and that the Legislature and Otter will give Idahoans the right to decide on the issue.

Update 1/10/07: The Democratic caucus, in its repsonse to Otter's address, had this to say Tuesday ..."This legislature also must recognize the fact that much of the state is becoming more urban. As such, cities and counties need to have the tools that allows them to plan smartly for the growth that is coming. Local option taxes that would pay for public transit could prevent the kind of Los Angeles sprawl that ruined the natural beauty of their area. Let’s not let Idaho become another California."

Read all of Otter's address here and all of the Democratic response here. I don't think local option taxing authority is a partisan issue so much as a rural-urban issue (especially given the gravity of air quality on the decision, as yossarian_22 suggests in the comment below), and, I submit, a libertarian-communitarian issue.

5 comments:

Yossarian_22 said...

I would say that now Governor Otter is mostly true to his libertarian philpsophy re public transit and thinks that most people really just want to drive their cars. The false sense of "freedom" that one supposedly gets behind the wheel of their iron stallions is what passes for "independence."

As we know, there's nothing emancipating about being stuck in traffic. Undiscovered is the real sense of freedom of being able to sit back and enjoy a bus ride, or even a nice train ride.

However, the realities of being a governor will soon take shape. We will watch as Otter's "libertarian" mantras crumble when the business lobbies exact their price for their support. Business knows we need transit, with some reservations.

Fortunately for us, the Feds hold the purse strings to the real money that builds the roads. And you don't get any roads if you can't show where you are working to attack air pollution emissions. Business wants those roads.

We should all write letters to the incoming chairs of the new Congressional subcommittees that hold sway over those dollars. Tell them what's going on out here. Let them know that they need to inform our leaders that they need to get serious about transit.

Julie in Boise said...

From what I understand, Boise's federal funding for public transit is in jeopardy both because we have gotten too big to qualify for some dollars and also due to the air-quality issue.

You may be right that business leaders are getting behind transit because they know it's a key to getting more road-building dollars. I'd rather see them get behind it because good transit could save their employees money and help them arrive at work more relaxed and productive, all while helping the environment. In any case, this is one area where business leaders may exact a positive price on Otter for their support.

And writing letters to the Congressional committee chairs is a great idea. I'll try to dig those up sometime soon.

Yossarian_22 said...

Julie,
I thought I'd help out and locate the committee assignmnets for you. I also wanted to point out a few other helpful members in the House that we can contact. (Blumenauer and De Fazio)

House
Jim Oberstar-D Minnesota is chair of House Transportation Committee (transit supporter), Charlie Rangel-D New York is chair of House Ways and Means Committee, Earl Blumenauer-D Oregon also sits on the Transportation Committee and the crucial Ways and Means Committee (is founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus and is a big transit supporter), Pete De Fazio-D Oregon is also on the Transportation Committee. (He was a bike mechanic and is also a big supporter of transit).

Senate
Robert Byrd-D W Virginia will be chair of Senate Appropriations Committee, Daniel Inouye-D Hawaii will be chair of Senate Transportation Committee.

The websites for a couple of these committees are still not updated yet, so be vigilant and perform some Googling to locate email/contact sites.

Bikeboy said...

Communitarians?

Oh, criminy! Is that something else we have to keep track of? Sounds too much like that OTHER "Commu..." persuasion; they better tweak it.
(-;

I sincerely hope the Legislature will tackle the Local Option Tax this session, since they seem uninclined to kick any $ into public transportation.

I thought this article from SLC's Deseret News - http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,650216501,00.html - was revealing. Down south, they have a 1/4% local option tax (LOW, right?) that will partially finance $2.5 billion in transportation improvements. Evidently the population has caught the vision, on account of their VERY successful light rail system. (A couple years back, we used park-and-ride, and rode into downtown SLC from about 90th south... what a NICE way to travel!) Of course, a more comprehensive bus system would be a nice start.

Julie in Boise said...

yossarian_22,thanks very much for that contact info. I briefly met Rep. Blumenauer when he was in town in October for a political event. I will try and touch base with him about what Boise-area transit supporters might seek from Congress. (I recall he specifically mentioned Oberstar as someone who might be able to raise public transit's profile if he got the chairmanship with a Dem win.)

Bikeboy, I agree: communitarian is a pretty thorny word. Basically, though, it describes people who have a strong sense of responsibility to the community.

It's impressive indeed to see what SLC is doing with a quarter cent of taxes! I believe the local Coalition on Regional Public Transportation is basing its plans on a half-cent local option sales tax - that is, if the state legislature allows local option taxing authority to begin with.