My state Rep. Bill Killen tells me that the local option funding measure for transit may be coming before the House Revenue and Tax Committee soon - possibly this Thursday (February 8), and if not then, next week. As I wrote a few days ago, now is the time to contact the Rev & Tax members to express your support for the measure.
Boise-based legislators strongly favor local options authority for public transit. Rep. Branden Durst of District 18 explains two reasons why on his blog:
First, there is vicious storm on the horizon and if we don't act now the citizens of the Treasure Valley will lose out in a major way. This storm is the worsening air quality that will inevitably lead the Treasure Valley to falling into something known as non-attainment. ... Once this happens, the EPA is required to force the offending community to make a plan to fix the problem and get back to attainment status. This is a costly venture and can cause significant negative economic impacts. Not good. Increased access to mass transit, which can help be made possible by local option taxes, will take cars off the road resulting in better air quality.
The second reason I believe the Legislature needs to approve local option taxes ASAP is the long-term nature of capital improvement projects like mass transit. In other words, if we want to have a functioning mass transit system in 2015 we need to start planning and funding it right away. If we are content to plan for today's needs, we will always be a decade behind (have you driven on Eagle Road recently?). It is decisions where the payoff is in the distant future that are always the most difficult for elected officials, but that doesn't make it unworthy of our attention. In fact, I would contend it makes equally if not more necessary. Leaders have to have vision and this is a prime example as to why.
Vision really is the key to this whole debate. Are we going to continue to let things slide until worsening air quality degrades our quality of life and derails economic development? Or do we take proactive measures now to start building a transit system that befits one of the nation's fastest-growing metro areas?