Friday, November 09, 2007

Upcoming Legislative Priorities

Governor Butch Otter,

Senator Mike Burkett,

Representative Anne Pasley-Struat,

Representative Nicole LeFavour

In advance of the upcoming legislative session I wanted to express my personal priorities to you, my representatives in the Idaho State government. As with all of my communication, if you would like to follow up with me, or ask me to volunteer to work on any of the described issues, please feel free to contact me.

1. Transit - The Treasure Valley is in desperate need of funding for public transportation. The continued decline of the valley's air quality, the increase in traffic congestion, and the decreased efficiency of all forms of transportation are but a few critical reasons that this should be addressed. An increase in funding for public transportation can lead a significant increase in ridership and economic development advantages as it has in Reno, Spokane, Salt Lake City, and Portland. I have tracked this issue for some time and am aware of the objections from representatives not from the Treasure Valley. While I am sympathetic to those concerns, I have the following response. The health of the state of Idaho is dependent upon the health of our metropolitan centers. Reasonable proposals have been made to address the concerns of those outside the valley while also providing the funding.  Fundamentally I believe that public transportation should be funded partially at a state wide level as it has state wide benefits and partially at a local level where most of the benefit will be realized. At a minimum the local option must be available. My preference is to pay for public transportation through the combination of payroll taxes and an increase in the gasoline tax. These methods have been very successful in other communities across the nation.  I acknowledge the near constitutional impossibility of accomplishing a gas tax increase for public transportation.  I therefore endorse the Coalition for Regional Public Transportation's proposed legislation of a sales tax increase for public transportation and local road projects. If this proposal is unacceptable, please work to find one that is.

2. Global Warming - Global warming is an issue that is at least contributed to by each of our actions.  The result also effects us all daily.  The health and prosperity of all citizens is at risk. I believe that actions are required at a global, national, state, local, and individual levels. There are significant actions which could be taken at a state level that would help with our contribution and show our commitment to be part of the global community. Actions could range from personal massaging from the governor encouraging a change in lifestyle, education programs, incentives to decrease energy use, alternative energy installation  incentives, R&D incentives for alternative energy technologies, or any combination of these. It is time that the state shows some leadership on this issue.

3. Protection of wild lands and wildlife - Our wild lands and wildlife are the most precious assets within our state. The biodiversity in our state is extraordinary in the United States and the world. Significant measures should be taken to protect these resources and maintain healthy ecosystems. State investment is required to increase preservation, to increase enforcement of the laws protecting these resources, and shifting the state toward economies and values which allow us to co-exist with nature instead of destroying it.

4. Property Taxes - Stop lowering property taxes! The shift of tax burden from property tax to sales tax is not appropriate.  Many of our most expensive services are tied to the property we choose to own. Thus it is most fair to apply the tax for those services onto the property in which they serve.   What we see in this state is wealthy individuals purchasing large land and houses then lobbying to shift the tax burden to those that are more efficient with our resources. If someone chooses to buy an expensive house that requires expensive services, they should be prepared to pay for them. Shifting this burden to sales tax is negatively effecting the poor, students, and those with a greater sense of social responsibility. Its just not right. I do believe there are some issues with the property tax system, specifically as it applies to the poor and elderly. Thus I do support tying the property tax exemption to land value inflation.

Pet Peeves

The following are items that I often wished would be addressed in legislation, but I am realistic enough to know that the effort would not be applied.

1. Leaf Blowers - I view leaf blowers as the most ridiculous invention and believe that they should be banned. They are a significant source of pollution - air pollution, chemical pollution, and noise pollution. They are very inefficient in their processing of fuels making them a top producer of exhaust. We should remember that more fuel is spilled refueling lawn equipment in America per year than the entire Exxon Valdez oil spill. The noise pollution is much more obvious as you can hear these devices many blocks away. Leaf blowers also provide minimal advantage over the manual method of using a rake. Its time that we look at these issues from a society perspective instead of our individual preferences.

2. Phone books - I don't use a phone book, but I  have the honor of picking up 4 to 8 of them per year off of my front step.  I then must take them to a local recycling facility for disposal. This is a tremendous waste of our natural resources and my time. Why do we allow companies to litter our yards in this manner? Citizens should at least have the legal opportunity to request a stop to this delivery as we do with direct mail.

This letter will be posted on my public blog at http://wolf21m.blogspot.com/ . If you choose to reply to this letter, please let me know if your reply can also be posted on my blog. If you don't specify, I will assume that you grant such permission. I, of course, will honor you specified preference.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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