Local option transit funding is on the top of Page 1 of today's Idaho Statesman, with an article explaining how - although local business leaders and government officials are solidly behind the idea - it faces tough sledding since it must first get out of the House Revenue and Tax Committee. Greg Hahn writes:
This committee has thwarted local option taxes in all but a handful of cases over the years. This time around, business leaders and elected officials still haven't convinced the Treasure Valley Republicans on the tax panel.
For many years, public transportation was seen as a Boise issue. It still has the most support from the slate of Democrats who won four of the five legislative districts within Boise city limits.
But now Nampa Mayor Tom Dale and Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas support the local option tax. So do the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce and the chambers in Nampa, Meridian and Middleton. Meridian, Eagle and Star have joined the coalition, along with still-rural Middleton, Melba, Parma, Greenleaf and Notus.
The name of this blog notwithstanding, better transit is not just a Boise issue. With better public transit, West Ada and Canyon county residents would gain the freedom to ditch their vehicles and enjoy a ride to work, with time to read, listen to books or music, or even catch a few more Zs on their commute. Older folks who no longer drive would enjoy much better access to shopping, medical facilities, and more. And everyone who wants to do something easy to help ease traffic, counter climate change, and breathe cleaner air would have better opportunities to use the bus, too.
Opponents say people don't currently ride the buses, but that's largely because service is sporadic and inconvenient - and some buses, including the current intercounty service - are packed. With much more frequent and widespread service (including evenings and weekends), ridership will go way up.
Now is the time to write the members of the House Rev & Tax Committee and ask them to approve local option funding authority for public transit, so citizens have the right to vote on this issue for ourselves. You can click here to send an email to everyone on the committee, or write these uncommitted Treasure Valley lawmakers individually - especially if you live in their districts: Gary Collins (District 12, Nampa); Mike Moyle (District 14, Star); Robert Schaefer (District 12, Nampa). Letters to individual legislators are especially effective if you live in their district - so if you have friends and family in Star or Nampa, let them know their voices are needed now.
Clean air and mobility for everyone ought not be partisan issues, and they shouldn't be decided by an 18-member panel in the Statehouse. Send those emails, or better yet, talk to your legislators now.