Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jaquet prepares for 16th legislative session

Representative to seek 9th term


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, heads to Boise once more in January for her 16th consecutive legislative session.

Since 1995, the Blaine County resident has been a representative of District 25, which includes Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties.

Jaquet was House minority leader for 10 years, a position she vacated last year to take a seat on the powerful Joint Finance Appropriations Committee, also known as JFAC. The new post is also part of Jaquet's motivation to run for a ninth term in public office.

"The other members have spent time training me and I've invested a lot of effort into this," Jaquet said. "This position on JFAC is a real advantage for the district."

The committee is largely responsible for the state's budget and determining how tax dollars are spent.

"It's rare that a budget bill coming out of JFAC gets defeated on the floor," Jaquet said.

The state's budget will surely be a hot topic in Boise as the Legislature gets under way Jan. 11. In September, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter ordered spending holdbacks from state departments ranging from 2.5 to 7.5 percent to help curb an estimated budget shortfall of $151 million for the current fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010.

With these cuts and by spending reserves, the deficit has been reduced to about $50 million, but in the case that the state does not experience economic growth in the next year, the 2010-11 budget is looking bleak as well.

To ensure a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, Jaquet said, the state might have to cut another 9 to 11 percent, a difficult task considering the demands for increased frugality that have already been made on departments.

While Otter has broached the idea of another budget reduction, this time an across-the-board 2 percent cut, Jaquet said she opposes the idea, as it could have disproportionate impacts on various departments.

Jaquet said that in addition to setting the budget, she could be personally involved in nearly a dozen pieces of legislation this session, including laws to help encourage the development of workforce housing and to institute tax credits for "green" energy businesses.

Another issue that has gained momentum locally is minimum revenue guarantees, which ensure local air service by providing airlines with a certain sum of money if low numbers of tickets are sold. The programs ensure that minimum revenue amounts are tallied. While Sun Valley Co. is the main source of these funds to Horizon Air service to Hailey, efforts by the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley to contribute have been stymied by the Idaho Attorney General's Office, which declared it unconstitutional for a city to contribute money to private businesses.

Jaquet said she will investigate a way to use local-option tax proceeds to help pay for the guarantees.

As for one of the more controversial issues from the 2009 Legislature, Jaquet said she did not think that a bill giving cities and counties the authority to issue liquor licenses would resurface this year. Currently, licenses are issued by the state and are limited to one for every 1,500 local residents. Additional liquor licenses are viewed by supporters of the change as a way to help stimulate the economy.

However, opposition to the bill came from current liquor license holders and from others who focused on the harmful impacts of a potential increase in alcohol consumption.

Jon Duval: jduval@mtexpress.com




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