I missed the District 17 legislative wrapup last week, but apparently, public transit was the most-discussed topic at the Borah High School meeting. Here's an excerpt from the email newsletter sent afterward by Sen. Elliot Werk and Reps. Sue Chew and Bill Killen:
"We spent about 45 minutes discussing the failure of the legislature to allow our community to decide whether to support enhanced public transportation funding. The House Revenue and Taxation Committee rejected, on an 11-7 vote, local option taxing authority for the Treasure Valley that would allow our community (with a 2/3 super majority vote) to improve our public transportation system.
"Amazingly, three Treasure Valley Representatives (Mike Moyle, Gary Collins, and Bob Schaefer) voted to kill this legislation. The bill was supported by a very broad cross-section of interests in the Valley from the business community, to low income citizens, to environmental advocates, to regular citizens. There was no organized opposition.
"The most compelling argument in support of the bill for rural legislators came from Rep. (Leon) Smith (a former mayor and Idaho Transportation Board member). He made the point that if the legislature does not allow the Treasure Valley to take care of our issues that eventually the entire state would be doing so as we demand ever more of the transportation funding to expand our road system to the detriment of rural communities.
"The opposition seemed to be a combination of a dogmatic view that all taxes are bad and a distrust of local government by legislators that believe that they somehow know what is better for local communities than the communities themselves.
"There was also discussion about light rail, the need to move forward with both public transportation and highway improvements, and what could be done to gain a different result in the committee.
"This issue will come back to the legislature in future years. In addition, Representative Killen is working on other avenues to secure funding. Stay tuned!"