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House Highlights – January 21

January 23rd, 2008 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher

If you are like I am, certain songs seem to get into my head and then it just keeps playing over and over. That is kind of what happened to me this week in the House, except it wasn’t music.

I had occasion to visit with Governor Otter at a reception this week and in passing I asked him if he was confident of his revenue projection numbers and asked given current circumstances if we should be cautious. He was not pleased with my inquiry and the reaction puzzled me.

What keeps replaying in my head is the last time (namely 2002) a budget was passed around this place that exceeded the revenue projection the way this current one does. We all know what the result of that was, higher taxes to cover our bad spending habits.

As a friend of mine keeps reminding me, the result of a mistake made one way is far different than the other. If more revenue comes in than estimated, and the budget is kept in line with that number we look like heroes. If we miss by overestimating and spending to that level it is disastrous. I favor erring on the side of caution, overall it is better for the taxpayer.

A little bill was brought to State Affairs by the Liquor Dispensary that would remove the prohibition on the sale of packaged liquor on election day. After being presented to the committee and a motion was called for, all of the members of the committee just looked at each other and finally with reluctance a member made the motion to introduce (print). The motion passed with very little enthusiasm.

Since then the restaurateurs’ lobby has discussed broadening the bill to include lifting the prohibition on sales at restaurants as well. The sales pitch is that the current law is outdated and we are losing a lot of revenue on the sales that day. Is anybody out there having that tune replay in their head besides me? We spend a lot of money every year on alcohol and substance abuse and then on the other hand we want to promote more sales. There is bound to be a lively committee discussion.

On the return to Boise from a fun filled weekend at home that included repairing a roof that had blown off a calving shed, I met and talked with a State Policeman at a refueling point. Our conversation went something like this.
Tom: “I’ll bet this was an easier week than last week.”
SP: “It sure was, not so many accidents and slide offs.”
I then introduced myself. “I admire the work you do, it is difficult and something I probably could not do.”
SP: “It has its moments, but I probably couldn’t do your work either.”
Tom: “You probably see some interesting things.”
SP: “I sure do and one of the more interesting things is the number of different excuses I get from people as to why they are speeding. The most frequent excuse is that they are about out of gas and are hurrying to get to a station. I stopped a young newly married couple the other day and clocked them doing about eighty nine. I said ‘Sir I have you at about 89 miles per hour.’ His reply was, ‘Yes, that is about right.’”

Proposals for transportation funding are about to hit here, one of which is to increase vehicle registration fees (another word for yearly car taxes) to raise money to pay off the GARVEE bonds. For the locals there are ideas floating around about local option taxing for roads as well. One of the more controversial proposals is to allow funding for mass transit financing that other sates are saying never is self sustaining. One Boise Legislator quipped that if that were to happen the roads would still be full between Boise and Caldwell and the trains would be empty.

And another message keeps popping into my mind. As it was said so well by another colleague, tongue in cheek of course. “Don’t worry, it’s only other people’s money.”

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