Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jaquet shifts into new role

Ketchum Democrat reflects on changing job in the Legislature and state’s money woes

Express Staff Writer

Wendy Jaquet

Next month, State Rep. Wendy Jaquet will upgrade to a more expensive parking permit giving her quicker access to the Idaho statehouse.

The change is just one of several the Ketchum Democrat will make during the next Idaho legislative session, brought about by her changing role in the Republican-dominated body. It began with the relinquishing of her role as House minority leader earlier this month and being named to a new post on the powerful Joint Finance Appropriations Committee.

Shifting gears will require Jaquet to show up bright and early for the committee's daily 7 a.m. meetings.

"I need to have a parking spot that's right there," she said during an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express.

But if Jaquet's past schedule is any indication, the transition to an earlier timetable shouldn't be too trying. She already gets up at 4:45 a.m. to get to the YMCA every morning.

Though she acknowledges the challenges that declining revenues means for next year's budgeting work, Jaquet also sees a silver lining in the daunting task. Last week, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter ordered an additional 3 percent state budget "holdback," citing continuing economic uncertainty and a further decline in state tax collections. He made his decision after forecasts showed that the 1 percent holdback he ordered in September would still leave this year's state revenue significantly short of the amount projected last winter.

Jaquet said Otter is poised to release details of his budget next Monday.

In her view, there's no better time to consider the government's funding priorities than during trying economic times.

"The opportunity we have when we don't have any money is that we can look at what we're doing," she said. "That's what a low budget year does."

Jaquet said she is determined to defend education from severe budget cuts. As part of that, she is considering proposing a moratorium on new charter schools.

"If you're funding new charters schools, you're taking out more slivers of the pie for K-12 schools," she said.

Jaquet, who easily won re-election to her seat on Nov. 4, acknowledged that she sold herself to her voters as a member of the Legislature's leadership, something that has changed now that she's stepping down as House minority leader.

"I felt guilty on that. I did feel that I was letting them down," she said.

Still, she insists that she'll have more influence on behalf of Idaho District 25 because of her seat on the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee.

Jaquet said she'd probably like to stay in the Legislature for another four to six years.

"As a legislator we have to think in short term and long term," she said. "In the short term we're in a world of hurt. So I have to think of ways to help my constituents in the short term."

Another change Jaquet will take on during the next session will be as a member of the House Energy and Environment Committee.

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