Friday, October 22, 2010

Constitutional amendments are sensible

Voters may be surprised to discover four constitutional amendments on the ballot. The proposed amendments had to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and are now before the people for their vote up or down.

I support all four. The first one, SJR 101, allows the University of Idaho to charge tuition. Currently, according to the Idaho Constitution, the University of Idaho may only charge fees, and fees cannot go to classroom instruction. The other higher education institutions can charge tuition, but the University of Idaho cannot, as it predates statehood. This just makes the tuition and fee issue an even playing field between the various institutions of higher education in the state.

HJR 4 is designed for public hospitals, which at this point cannot purchase equipment, technology and property unless there is a two-thirds vote of the people. Currently, a public hospital cannot buy an expensive piece of X-ray equipment, even though the revenues from user fees (your getting an X-ray and paying for it) are projected to fund it. Obviously, if a purchase is to be funded by property taxes, a vote of the people is required.

HJR 5 is similar to HJR 4 but it allows airports to bond for the construction of buildings, projects, etc., provided that user fees will retire the bond. For example, an airport could construct a parking garage with projected parking fees to pay off the bond. No property taxes would be involved, so a two-thirds vote would not be required if this passes.

HJR 7 is similar to HJR 5 and HJR 4, but it involves a city that owns a municipal electric system. Idaho Falls, for example, is referred to as a "power city." As you know, most power agreements are long-term and financed by the rates that we pay for the power. This amendment will allow the power cities to enter into long-term agreements for power generated outside their own system, as well as construct projects, without a vote of the people provided that the revenues are from the rate payers and not the property-tax payers.

I support all of the above constitutional amendments. Your Idaho voters' pamphlet has detailed information.

Wendy Jaquet

District 25 representative


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