Friday, October 27, 2006

Recommendations for state, local ballot issues

Voters will deal with a full ballot when they go to the polls Nov. 7 to not only vote for governor, lieutenant governor, members of Congress and members of the state Legislature, but also on several statewide and local questions.

Here are recommendations for voters on the slate of initiatives, amendments, bond issues and an advisory question.

State of Idaho

- Proposition 1: Vote Yes.

This initiative would require the Legislature to increase the sales tax by 1 percent effective July 2007 to provide public schools with funds for books and school facility repairs, among other things. The big question mark is whether lawmakers will enact the requirement if passed.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has written an informal opinion that legislators can amend or even ignore such a ballot mandate.

In view of the state Legislature's continuing shabby treatment of public education, voters should support this proposition as a strong assertion to lawmakers that the public wants better for an education system that has suffered annually through cruel budgets. Idaho is 45th in the nation in spending for education, eighth nationally for classroom crowding and has some facilities that are beyond worn.

- Proposition 2: Vote No.

This is a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing gimmick, promoted misleadingly as a way to protect personal property from bad old government condemnation. In fact, it is a slick backdoor gambit to throttle the planning and zoning powers of communities that believe in sensible and compatible land use. Prop 2 is bankrolled by a New York real estate tycoon who sees riches awaiting speculators if land-use restrictions are abolished.

- Constitutional Amendment on Marriage: Vote No.

This is a wrong-headed and punishing attempt to manipulate the state Constitution by religious and so-called "family values" groups to declare "marriage" as only between a man and woman. The same social engineering by fringe ideological groups to change the U.S. Constitution has failed repeatedly.

- Constitutional Amendment on Tobacco Funds: Vote Yes.

Millions of dollars have flowed into Idaho's treasury from the so-called tobacco settlement fund negotiated nationally in the 1990s. This amendment to create the Idaho Millennium Permanent Endowment Fund would ensure that 80 percent of the dollars would be permanently deposited in an income-producing endowment, thereby blocking misuse of the funds by the state Legislature, such as balancing the budget. Each year, 5 percent of the permanent fund would be available for legislative appropriation.

- Advisory Vote: Vote No.

This is a straw vote by the Republican-controlled Legislature to gauge the public pulse about outgoing Gov. Jim Risch's special legislative session in August that hurriedly adopted so-called tax relief.

By voting "No," taxpayers would ask legislators to go into their 2007 session in January with a more serious, thoughtful and financially responsible approach to crafting a tax relief plan that makes sense and isn't the product of one-day political showboating by a lame duck governor.

City of Ketchum

- $1.5 million equipment bond issue: Vote Yes.

Approving this bond would allow the city to comply with a recent Idaho Supreme Court decision requiring voter approval for the city to use a lease-purchase agreement to replace aging snow removal equipment and pay for it from city funds.

Ketchum prides itself in quick, efficient clearing of snow from streets to keep traffic moving safely and efficiently.

But it has relied on some equipment dating back to 1957. Newer equipment will speed removal and give Ketchum equipment that's not always on the verge of breakdown from age.

City of Hailey

- Woodside fire station bond issue: Vote Yes.

Proceeds from this bond issue would finance a $2.7 million, 10,000-square-foot fire station in the Woodside area, which is now virtually fully developed.

Response times for fire and medical emergencies in that area would be cut drastically (to three minutes by city estimates) by providing crew quarters and space for four pieces of fire equipment.

Efficient fire fighting operations keep property insurance premiums low, not to mention ensure the personal safety and well-being of residents.

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