From The Idaho Statesman, Saturday, 04/01/2006, Local page 4
HOUSE LEADERS HIJACK BIG ROAD PROPOSAL
They want Senate to vote their way on tax measures
The Idaho Statesman
The final-hour chess match at the Statehouse has begun.
House leaders sent senators a message Friday in an effort to get
their way in remaining battles, by moving the "Connecting Idaho"
road-building program back to committee rather than letting
representatives vote on it.
The decision comes one day after House Speaker Bruce Newcomb's water
recharge bill died on the Senate floor and senators supported
a "Truth in Taxation" bill that representatives say precludes real
property tax relief for Idahoans.
Moving the bill to the House Transportation and Defense Committee
forces senators to vote on remaining property tax bills knowing they
might lose Connecting Idaho, also called GARVEE, if they don't do
what the House wants.
"They want GARVEE, we want property tax relief and recharge of the
aquifer," House Assistant Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star said.
The Connecting Idaho bill has sat at the speaker's desk since
passing the budget committee three weeks ago, and Newcomb said he
was holding the bill as a possible bargaining chip for end-of-
"I'm just saying to the people in the Senate maybe they should open
their hearts, open their minds and open their ears and maybe they
could hear something," said Newcomb, of Burley, on Friday afternoon
at a retirement party in his honor.
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne introduced Connecting Idaho in last year's
State of the State address. The plan lets the state build highways
now by borrowing from future federal dollars.
Members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee cut the
governor's requested $218 million to $200 million and limited the
projects from 11 to six, saying the cuts were necessary to get the
bill passed in the House.
The governor said Friday he thought the compromise would ultimately
But Rep. JoAn Wood, chairman of House transportation committee, said
she plans to modify the bill to redistribute the projects more
evenly across the state.
"If I had my way, it wouldn't come out of the committee at all,"
said Wood, R-Rigby. "It would save the people of this state a lot of
JFAC member Rep. Darrell Bolz said he was concerned that the House
might have overplayed its hand a bit. "Once it goes into committee,
we don't know what kind of control we have over it," said Bolz, R-
JFAC co-chairman Sen. Dean Cameron of Rupert said if the house
committee alters the bill, JFAC will reintroduce its bill that
passed that committee with only one vote against.
Still in play are four property tax bills.
The Senate is working to advance two proposals that don't
immediately give property tax relief. On Thursday, the Senate voted
for a "Truth in Taxation'' law that would force local governments to
publicly explain all tax increases, and will soon decide on another
that brings the property tax decision to the voters in the form of a
Members of the House are afraid the Senate has chosen this tack over
endorsing the three remaining House bills that would take effect
immediately, including an increase in the homeowner's exemption,
additional aid to the elderly and the disabled and a shift of school
construction costs from the property tax to the sales tax.
"We still want to have property tax relief," said House Majority
Leader Lawerence Denney of Midvale. "We'll get it down to one issue,
and it will be taken care of."
But Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes of Soda Springs said he
wasn't clear on what exactly the House wants.
"I'm not sure what's going on, but I don't think GARVEE is in
trouble," Geddes said. "It's something the House needs to do to make
a point. The problem is, we don't know what that point is."
Rep. Ken Roberts said the move was also to punish the senators who
broke promises to support water recharge and the two chambers will
likely spend all of next week sorting the mess out. "This is the
part of the session I like the least because politics get involved
in policy decisions," said Roberts, R-McCall, sponsor of the
property tax relief bill that raises the sales tax by one and one-