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Bill targeting Boise streetcar project receives House OK

Bill targeting Boise streetcar project receives House OK

Dustin Hurst
March 5, 2010
Dustin Hurst
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March 5, 2010

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, are not fans of the Boise streetcar project being pushed by Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, among others.  The House approved a bill Friday that would, if enacted, limit local government entities in their ability to establish Local Improvement Districts (LIDs) for construction or economic development projects.  Legislators voted 42-23 to approve the measure, which now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The bill proposed by Labrador and Moyle would limit local government entities from approving an LID of more than $500,000 without a vote of the people who would be within the taxing authority of the LID.  Governments seeking to institute an LID could also approve the measure by constructing a petition and gathering signatures of those who would be taxed by the LID.  Local officials would be required to receive signatures from 60 percent of property owners within LID boundaries for approval.  If officials choose to put the matter up to a vote of the people affected by the LID, 60 percent voter approval would be necessary to form the LID.

On the House floor Friday, Moyle said that though the majority of LIDs are less than $500,000, he feels the measure is necessary to allow citizens to have greater control in determining which taxes they will pay.  He said that LIDs can be an effective tool for development and maintenance when used correctly, but that many city councils are abusing the practice.

"I don’t believe … LIDS should be used for streetcars like Boise is proposing to do," said Moyle.

Labrador, in his speech to fellow lawmakers, that the legislation is a compromise from previous legislations proposed that would have forced city councils, or other local entities wishing to form an LID, to put every improvement district proposal up for a vote of the people.  He said the bill would not affect any LIDs that are currently formed.

Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, said it is hypocritical of lawmakers to continuously pass laws or resolutions asking the federal government to stay out of state affairs while involving the state government in local affairs.  Durst urged lawmakers to oppose the legislation because he feels that locally elected officials should have the trust of the people in planning for city.

Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, joined Durst in opposition to the bill, saying that he believes the plan is unnecessarily preemptive in its approach to LIDs.

"I believe this is legislation looking for a problem," said Burgoyne.  Burgoyne added that the Legislature should not involve itself in "Ada County intramural issues," but should rather look to more clearly define the purposes and uses of LIDs.

The bill originally limited local governments to $250,000, but that bill was killed in committee because legislators felt the cap was too low.  Labrador said the increased cap would help to “to find a happy medium” among legislators.

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