The best bus ever

The best bus ever
Jason Sievers' awesome Art in Transit bus

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Transit is Topic A at Bench meeting

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!"


Bikeboy said...

Julie... didn't one of your readers state that the Idaho Constitution would have to be amended, in order for a public-transit surcharge to be tacked onto gas purchases? (I continue to believe that the best possible funding source would be a modest increase in fuel taxes... both for funding and to encourage people to burn less gas.)

If the Constitution would indeed have to be changed... then riddle me this. I believe almost for certain that 5 or 8 years ago a 5-cent-per-gallon increase was authorized in Ada County, to pay for the 9-1-1 system, or for the paramedics, or for something like that. Far as I know, it's still in effect. If so, SURELY our gridlock affects just as many citizens.

Your homework assignment, Julie, is to check into this allegation.

Julie in Boise said...

Bikeboy, I believe you are right, that it would require amending the constitution to have any part of our gas taxes go to fund transit.

I believe we are all paying an annual fee on our vehicle registrations to help fund the EMS. Not sure whether there's a fuel surcharge for that cause, too. In either case, perhaps we can solve this (in part, anyway) on the county level.

I'd like to see if Rep. Bill Killen can answer any of this. Paul Woods, the new county commissioner, might be another source of info. Let me work on it.