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For the week of April 2 - 8, 2003

Opinion Columns

Smoke and mirrors
in the Legislature

Guest opinion by WENDY JAQUET

The House minority leader, Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, represents District 25 in the Idaho Legislature. She can be contacted by phone at 1-800-626-0471 or by e-mail at wjaquet@sunvalley.net

Iím tired of smoke and mirrors. Itís time for the Legislature to go home. The flowers are blooming and the trees are budding. Theyíre mowing the lawns. My allergies have started.

Iím tired of hearing that we must cut budgets 7.1 percent because "we have no money." So many of you attended the Joint Finance and Appropriations hearings and said we could handle a tax increase. So many of you said "donít cut education or our colleges and universities." We need a strong education system for our state recovery.

And yet the Republican Party, the majority party, has been rolling out 7.1 percent budget cuts to various departments, including Water Resources, the Department of Environmental Quality, Agriculture and the Department of Commerce, while they disingenuously wring their hands, telling us "we just donít have the revenue." Smoke and mirrors.

Pointing fingers at the governor is getting tiresome. "We couldnít do anything without the Governorís tax package" they say. Well, not only did Gov. Dirk Kempthorne outline his tax package in January, he repeatedly stated that he would not accept any more cuts to education which apparently the majority party has not taken seriously. More smoke and mirrors.

Then they hold a closed meeting of only Republican members of the Revenue and Taxation Committee convened by the Speaker of the House Bruce Newcomb to "explain" the technicalities of motions to send a budget bill to the floor. First of all, isnít this the role of the chairwoman, Rep. Dolores Crow, R-Nampa? Didnít she do it at the first meeting of the session? Havenít they read about all the possible motions outlined on the inside cover of the minute book given to each member of the committee? What were they really talking about for 15 minutes behind closed doors? Smoke and mirrors.

And itís a work session to develop a tax package to create the needed revenues. A work session on the 84th day of the session! Not one revenue-increasing bill has come out of the Revenue and Taxation Committee to date. A committee which is "so busy," it meets for an hour a day. While the rest of us go to committee meetings at 8:30 or 9 in the morning, the Revenue and Taxation chairwoman calls her meetings at 10 a.m. Hardworking? Busy? Smoke and mirrors.

Democrats have submitted possible revenue-increasing bills to the Revenue and Taxation Committee chairwoman for the last several weeks. We have eighteen bills in committee waiting for a hearing. Our constituents deserve to have this Legislature act democratically. The chairwoman wonít schedule the Democratsí omnibus bill for a hearing. She calls it in the newspaper "just a sheaf of papers." This particular bill was worked on by our caucus for almost six weeks, it was "vetted" by Division of Financial Management and Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee staffers. Sheís smoke and mirrors.

I have tried to be a part of the public policy team, to provide leadership around good solutions for our budget situation. I treat my fellow legislators with respect. I expect my caucus to be treated with the same kind of respect. Respect? Itís smoke and mirrors.

The people of our state should be outraged. Look beyond the smoke and mirrors.


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