Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Support new tax to boost air service


I am writing today in support of the Yes to Air campaign. Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey have agreed to let the voters of their cities decide on Tuesday, Nov. 6, if they are willing to raise the local-option tax by 1 percent for a five-year period to be designated for minimum-revenue guarantees for air service and air market promotion. The funds will be directed by a newly established joint power authority entity called the Sun Valley Air Service Board, made up of one board representative from each of the cities that pass the tax and the Board of County Commissioners, similar to Mountain Rides.

As your Idaho state representative, I asked the Attorney General’s Office if local government funding could be used for MRG contracts like those that the Sun Valley Resort has been using for years to make the Seattle and Los Angeles nonstop flights possible. A public/private partnership between a community and its ski resort company was a model that I had observed among our competitor Western ski resorts many years ago as your Chamber of Commerce director. I realized that it was not fair to the Sun Valley Resort to continue underwriting 100 percent of this service when less than one-third of the air passengers to Sun Valley stay on its property. I also observed that our non-tourism businesses were terribly reliant on their access to air service in and out of the valley.  And air passenger studies had indicated to me that for every $50 spent on an MRG-supported airline seat, you could count on about $1,700 coming into the community in direct spending from those air passenger visitors and second home owners!

I had visited with our Governor’s Office and our state agencies regarding our ability to retain our non-tourism business in the Wood River Valley with the loss of air seats, and inability to reach new markets. Your leaders at the state realize that time is precious to these businesses in the global markets in which they now compete, and that these local companies currently have almost 500 high-paying professional jobs threatened by our access issues. Air service is an economic development investment.

The Attorney General’s Office, working with attorneys in the Hawley Troxell law firm in Boise, which has a great deal of experience in Idaho constitutional issues, and with community leaders and myself, decided to try to get clarity on this issue. The attorney general’s opinion found that a nexus existed between the operation of the airport and business generated for that operation and that our cities with the county (Hailey and the county are airport owners) could move forward with funding to restore the seats that we have lost and open new markets for the Wood River Valley.  And Sun Valley Co. will remain committed as a 50 percent MRG-funding partner, bringing our community generally into line with the types of partnerships in competitor resort communities.

Our economy continues to be at risk as we pull ourselves out of this recession. Air service is important to our tourism industry, to our non-tourism businesses, to lone eagles who commute back and forth to the valley and to our property values. If we are to retain and attract additional jobs and business for our community, we need to step forward and vote Yes to Air on Tuesday, Nov. 6. 

Please call me if you have questions: Wendy Jaquet, Ketchum, 726-3100, or write to

Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, is a District 26 representative to the Idaho Legislature.

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