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2008 Legislative Issues

January 3, 2008


The results are in. The Common Interest's three new issues for the 2008 legislative session will be:

  • Water
  • Transportation
  • Growth Paying for Itself

CLICK HERE to review the full results.


We will develop briefing materials on three issues that come before the Legislature in the upcoming session. Short descriptions of 25 of the most important issues likely to come before the legislature are provided below. We ask that you rate how important it is for us to develop full briefing materials on each issue. The three issues with the highest average ratings will be those for which we develop briefing materials. Each member of The Common Interest will be randomly assigned to review the briefing materials for one of the three selected issues and then share their views.

We developed the list of 25 issues by inviting input from the Governor, 12 legislative leaders, and seven members of the press. The issues are listed in order from the issue most to least frequently identified by these 20 people. If particular issues seem especially well or poorly-suited for The Common Interest, we note this in bold, italicized text at the conclusion of the description.

At the end, we also ask for your input on an internal organizational question. Specifically, some members have asked that we raise our self-imposed limit on individual annual donations from $250 to $500.

Note that you need to login in order to open the questionnaire where you rate the importance of us briefing and polling each issue. You can login using the box in the upper left corner of this page. If you've forgotten your username or password, CLICK HERE for a reminder e-mail.

Once you login, the questions will appear on the right side of your screen. After you answer the questions and hit the submit button at the bottom of the questionnaire, you should get a message in red letters at the top confirming that we got your answers. You can come back to the questionnaire and change your answers as much as you like until the poll closes. A number of members have asked for more time, so the poll will close at noon on Monday, December 24.

Thank you for taking the time to help us pick our issues for the year. And now, here are the candidates:

1. Transportation (20 of 20, 100%)

Costs for road construction and maintenance have been rising rapidly largely because of the increased costs of petroleum products and there is a concern that the federal government may not provide the same level of funding as it has in the past. The Idaho Department of Transportation (IDT) projects that it will fall far short of keeping up even with basic maintenance of Idaho's highways over the next several years, let alone complete new projects that are needed even though the Legislature passed the GARVEE bond funding mechansim a few years ago. The backlog is pegged at more than $200 million. Consequently, IDT has proposed a significant increase in the fuel tax. Since gas and diesel prices are already so high for consumers, the idea of raising taxes on fuels is controversial. There is, however, a widespread sense that something needs to be done.

In many areas, particularly those experiencing high growth, the strain is on the local road system in addition to state highways. There is a rising concern that Idaho lacks mechanisms for funding the upgrades to the road system that growth makes necessary. One idea is to give local governments an option to tax sales. If approved by voters, local government would be able to use the revenue for roads and/or for mass transit systems like light rail to ease the pressure on Idaho's roads. While this idea has been proposed before and has gotten little traction, the rising tide of citizen frustration with traffic has improved its chances this year. A broad coalition is working together to propose a bill with broad support. Some who opposed the idea in earlier sessions now support it. The Governor, who has opposed the idea in the past, has signaled an openness to considering this idea now, though he has also indicated that he's less supportive of using local option sales tax for public transit than for roads. Currently, it's difficult to predict whether this measure will make it into law.

2. Performance Pay for Teachers (17 of 20, 85%)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has proposed a program that would reward teacher performance with bonuses. Under the Idaho State Teacher Advancement and Recognition System (I-STARS) teachers would get pay increases ranging from $1,200 to $3,600 per year beyond the current system for teaching in a school that demonstrates improvement or that maintains excellence in student achievement. Bonuses of $2,400 per teacher would also be available for working in hard-to-fill positions, forgoing tenure, gaining expertise and qualifications in multiple subject areas, and for taking on additional leadership duties. A teacher who qualified for each of these bonuses could thus earn up to a $15,600 pay increase.

The idea has considerable support in many circles, including among many legislative leaders. Supporters view this proposal as a way of attracting, retaining, and motivating high performing teachers. Consequently, supporters argue, the quality of education in the state should improve. The reception by the Idaho Education Association, the association of teachers, has been mixed. Accordingly, most observers are confident this issue will be the subject of considerable debate in the Legislature this session.

K-12 education has been the only issue that The Common Interest has worked on without success. Partly, this is because we've taken on the overall K-12 education budget in the past. For a variety of reasons, that is an issue on which it is difficult to get traction. The issue of performance pay for teachers, however, is much more specific and amenable to our process. It's a topic that lends itself to a dispassionate examination of the substantive merits. We have considerable credibility with the key players on this important issue and could likely make the difference on whether it passes or not. We would probably be wise to choose this as one of our issues this year.

3. Election Reform (16 of 20, 80%)

Election reform is another issue that has previously been ranked as important by legislative leaders, members of the press, and our members. We picked this issue last year and were a central player in the extensive debates in the Legislature. Despite those extensive debates, nothing happened. Nevertheless, a few election reform issues are likely to be seriously considered this session. The reform issue getting the most attention is primary elections. The bill that The Common Interest drafted last session is widely considered the only proposal with serious prospects for success. Another proposal which had The Common Interest's support last year, vote-by-mail, will again be introduced in a more modest form. A program that would provide candidates a voluntary option to accept strict fundraising limits in exchange for modest public campaign financing will also likely be introduced again.

We have already briefed and polled on these issues and are prepared to shape the debate. Nevertheless, we do ask you to rate the importance of this issue in order to give the Legislature and the press an indication of how this issue rates in eyes' of Idaho citizens this year.

4. Overcrowded Prisons (15 of 20, 75%)

This marks the third year that overcrowded prisons has been seen as a major issue by a large majority of legislative leaders and members of the press. Two years ago, overcrowded prisons was mentioned as an important issue by more legislative leaders and reporters than any other issue but property taxes. Our membership agreed this was an important issue two years ago, and selected it as one to investigate. For a variety of reasons, however, as the session began it had become clear that the significant proposals that had been discussed prior to the session would not receive serious consideration, a circumstance that was repeated last year. Consequently, we did not complete our brief and poll our members on this issue in either of the last two sessions.

The overcrowded prisons problem has only become more pressing in the time that the three governors and the Legislature have punted on this issue. A recent report estimated that $1 billion would need to be spent on new prisons in the next ten years, half of that within the next five years. There is an increasing consensus that a significant debate will occur on this issue this session. Part of why it is more likely a serious discussion of the issue will occur is because Corrections Corporation of America, which employs powerful lobbyists, is making a major push for the issue to be discussed. They are proposing that Idaho make it legal to build private prisons here that can house inmates from other states. They argue that this will make it financially attractive to corporations like theirs to build prisons here. In turn, they argue, that will economically benefit the state generally and will provide a way for Idaho to house its own prisoners' that is more cost effective than the state building its own prisons.

While Governor Otter has been open to this approach, many others argue that private prisons are a bad idea. Bringing out-of-state prisoners creates a range of problems, they suggest, including that if prisoners commit another crime while here, they will become Idaho's own prisoners. Furthermore, they argue that the evidence is that private prisons have not been more cost effective than state prisons in the long run.

Many are concerned that the debate over public vs. private prisons will forestall what they consider the more important issues for consideration, such as whether there are alternatives to incarceration and more effective programming in prisons that are worth pursuing in addition to simply building more prisons. Many think these are particularly important issues to address given the increasing portion of inmates who are in prison for drug-related crimes and questions about how effective incarceration is alone for dealing with this population. Many also point out that if powerful corporations are making millions housing prisoners, they will have incentives to keep the prison population high rather than to develop and run effective programming that will reduce the likelihood that prisoners commit new crimes once they're released.

We are currently developing our brief on this issue so that we will be prepared to advocate The Common Interest's positions this session. Nevertheless, we do ask you to rate the importance of this issue in order to give the Legislature and the press and indication of how this issue rates in eyes' of Idaho citizens.

5 (tie). Eliminating Tax Loopholes (11 of 20, 55%)

An interim committee addressed the issue of whether Idaho had granted too many tax breaks that benefit particular groups but do not serve the broad public interest. Given the central and widely praised role we played in the property tax debate and that last year we picked tax loopholes as an issue on which we would take a long-term proactive look, The Common Interest was invited to present to the interim committee. Drawing on results from our property tax brief and poll, we added our voice to the general support expressed in the committee for eliminating many of these loopholes and lowering the overall tax rates. We also offered our analysis that many of the tax breaks currently on the books were the results of special interest political dynamics rather than compelling evidence that they served the public interest.

In spite of widespread agreement with and support for our view, no concrete legislative proposals were recommended. The committee did adopt a recommended set of criteria against which tax breaks should be judged. Despite the lack of formal legislative proposals from the interim committee, some of the powerful members of the interim committee will likely propose bills that would close loopholes and lower tax rates. Given the failure of the interim committee to agree on concrete proposals, the chances that such a bill will succeed this session are low.

Given that little is likely to happen this session and that we have already chosen to do a longer-term investigation of this issue, it's probably advisable that we not choose this as one of our topics for this session.

5 (tie). Reducing Grocery Taxes (11 of 20, 55%)

Wide consensus had emerged prior to last session that something should be done to reduce or eliminate the sales tax on groceries. While this issue has come up previously, it had gained new momentum as a result of the recent increase in the sales tax from 5 cents to 6 cents. The sales tax increase was passed in a special legislative session convened in August, 2006, by then Governor Risch in order to replace revenues lost because the Legislature also voted in the special session to eliminate property taxes for schools (except for voter approved supplementary bond levies). One of the major arguments against eliminating the property tax for schools and raising the sales tax was that sales taxes fall disproportionately hard on lower income families because essential purchases, such as groceries, take up a greater share of their income. Elimination or reduction of the sales tax on groceries would address this issue.

While there was a broad consensus that something should be done about the sales tax on groceries last session, a wide variety of ideas have been mentioned about exactly what should be done. Democrats called for the total elimination of the sales tax on groceries. Recognizing how much revenue is lost by a total elimination, many Republican legislators said that sales tax should be reduced, perhaps to 3 cents, on groceries. And still others, most notably Governor Otter, said that the state income tax credit for what individuals spend on groceries should be dramatically increased for those with lower incomes and for seniors on fixed incomes. Despite the consensus that something should be done, no consensus emerged behind any of the concrete proposals offered.

Governor Otter has said he will again call for a solution along the lines he outlined last year and Democrats have said they will again advocate for total elimination of taxes on groceries. However, if anything, the prospects for any of these proposals appear to be worse this year than last and most expect nothing to happen.

5 (tie). Eliminating Personal Property Tax (11 of 15, 55%)

Property tax in Idaho is assessed not only on real commercial property like land and buildings, but also on "personal property." This includes property not directly involved in production like furniture, equipment, computers, phones, etc. for offices. It is extremely complicated to comply with state law on this count and extremely difficult for the state to enforce compliance. Consequently, compliance rates on this property tax are low.

The business lobby has argued persuasively that this form of property tax should simply be eliminated. It's very difficult to find anyone who will defend the personal property tax as a good tax. However, there are two substantial obstacles to eliminating it. First, despite the low compliance rates, this tax still brings in many millions in tax revenue. If it is eliminated, that revenue would need to be replaced somehow. Second, since personal property tax is paid by business, elimination of this tax would substantially shift the overall tax burden from businesses to individuals.

One idea that has been discussed is to eliminate a different business tax break, the production exemption, in exchange for removing the personal property tax. That would keep tax revenues roughly the same and would not shift taxes from business to individuals. This exchange is likely to be proposed and discussed in this session. It's not entirely clear at this time, but the prospects for passing appear to be low.

8. Water (10 of 20, 50%)

Because much of Idaho in an arid climate that typically receives 12 inches or less of precipitation a year, water is always a concern. Several developments have heightened concerns. Much of the state has experienced drought in seven of the last nine years. With increasing evidence of global climate change, there is an increasing sense that these dry years are becoming the norm rather than the exception. The state's fast growth rates have put water at an even greater premium.

In addition to these general problems, unique regional water challenges have emerged in most regions of Idaho. The problems associated with insufficient water, particularly during drought, to meet all the demands in the Snake River Basin from Twin Falls east almost to Wyoming have been around for years now and continue to increase in intensity. Depending on pending legal actions, many farmers, business, and cities that pump water from the Eastern Snake Plain aquifer in the Magic Valley may be ordered to turn off their pumps or at least reduce their pumping, with significant economic consequences. Northern Idaho also faces water problems, particularly around the Rathdrum aquifer west and north of Coeur d'Alene. In the Treasure Valley, rapid growth has raised new water issues, particularly proposals for more than 20,000 new homes in the foothills north of Eagle.

Various proposals are likely to come before the legislature to address these problems. In north Idaho, controversy surrounds whether the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) should commence the North Idaho Adjudication, a legal process to assess, document, and validate all water rights in North Idaho. IDWR will request funding for a study of the water supply and demand in the north Ada County foothills. Some proposals may come forward to address the over-allocation problem along the Snake in south-central and eastern Idaho.

9. Health Care Accessibility and Affordability (9 of 20, 45%)

Health care costs continue to put increasingly financial pressure on individuals and families, businesses, and county and state governments.  Many are suggesting that the state needs to address this problem.  In response, the Governor held a two-day health care summit in August. The summit produced a number of recommendations that have broad support conceptually. Several recommendations were aimed at the shortage of doctors and nurses in Idaho. Other recommendations were aimed at improving Idahoans' diet and exercise habits. The summit participates recommended new health care delivery models that would increase early and preventitive care and decrease the expensive use of emergency rooms.

Perhaps the most significant recommendations regarded health insurance. Summit participants recommended that an insurance policy be made available to all individuals in the state that would emphasize preventive, early, and catastrophic care and that would be more affordable than what is typically available to individuals now. Greater affordability would be achieved, in part, by drawing on the state's ability to pool the risk of many individuals. The summit participants took this idea a step further. They also recommended a state requirement that all individuals carry such a policy just as the state requires car insurance. The program would include a sliding scale of subsidies for those who could not pay for such a policy themselves. This model has recently been adopted in Massachusetts and California.

While many of these ideas have broad conceptual support, most of them will require significantly more detailed development. For example, the programs requiring individual insurance and providing sliding scale subsidies took immense amounts of policy development and negotiation before they passed the Massachusetts and California legislatures. Most observers don't expect much substantive progress on the summit recommendations in this session of the Legislature, though many are hopeful that the recommendations will be a useful beginning to more detailed policy discussions that will lead to measures passing in future legislative sessions.

Last year we chose to conduct a longer-term, proactive investigation into the affordability and accessibility of healthcare. We are currently taking steps to get funding for such an investigation. Given this decision and that little will likely happen this session, it's probably advisable for us not to choose this as one of our issues for this year.

10. Early Childhood Education (7 of 20, 35%)

Currently, Idaho does not provide education prior to kindergarden. In fact, local schools are prohibited by the state from offering it. Citing research on positive effects of early childhood education and the fact that 39 other states have state-funded early childhood education, supporters introduced a bill last session that would have provided optional pre-kindergarden education in Idaho. The provision was optional in the sense that local schools would have the option, but not the requirement, of providing pre-kindergarten education if they found their own funding for it. It was also optional in the sense that parents would have the option, but not the requirement, of sending their children to such a program. The measure was defeated, with opponents arguing that young children are best cared for and taught in the home. The debate on this measure produced some of the most controversial statements of the session. This year, early childhood education proponents are planning to respond to the concerns expressed last session by proposing a bill that would create a commission which would submit a final report by December 1, 2008 containing recommendations for ways to help parents be their child's first teacher.

11(tie). Government Ethics and Lobbying Reform
(6 of 20, 30%)

Three proposals to raise the ethical requirements in government will be proposed this session. The first bill would increase the financial disclosure requirements for registered lobbyists. With 392 registered lobbyists in the state, more than three lobbyists for every legislator, this bill's supporters argue that it's important to bring additional sunshine to this aspect of state policy making. The bill would require lobbyists to disclose their salaries, spending on or gifts to officials' family members, and their business associations with officials' family members. With a majority of states requiring these lobbyist disclosures, the Center for Public Integrity gave Idaho an "F" grade because our lobbyist disclosure laws do not include these common requirements.

The second bill would require certain kinds of financial disclosure for public officials and candidates. Currently, although 47 other states and the federal government require public officials and candidates to file personal financial statements, Idaho does not.

The third bill is proposed in the wake of numerous examples in Idaho in recent years of individuals leaving government and taking jobs, often at higher pay, lobbying the branch of government or agency they had just been working for. The bill would prohibit individuals from such lobbying for one year after leaving the government's employment. A majority of states and the federal government have such "revolving door" laws requiring a one or two year cooling off period.

Since making sure that special interests don't trump the common interest is one of our aims, this would be an important and appropriate issue for us to consider. These proposals may receive more serious consideration this year then they've in recent years.

11 (tie). Childcare and Daycare Licensing (tie, 6 of 20, 30%)

Last year a bill was introduced and defeated that would have required more child-care providers to undergo background checks, safety inspections and first-aid training. Shortly after that defeat a national study came out that gave Idaho the lowest score of the 50 states for child care center standards and oversight. That has given the issue increased attention and the proposal will be reintroduced this session.

11 (tie). Energy (6 of 20, 30%)

An interim committee on energy recommended a new state energy plan last January. That plan recognized challenges Idaho faces in maintaining what has been some of the most affordable electricity in the nation. In particular, a number of pressures make it likely that the low costs of generating electricity from hydroelectric power and from coal will increase. These are the two chief sources of electricity in Idaho. Other electric energy concerns include transmission issues. While the company that had proposed building a coal-fired electricity generating plant near Jerome has now abandoned its proposal, there is still a concern about the state's lack of regulations governing the siting of such plants. Various proposals may come before the legislature this year to deal with one or more of these issues.

14. State Liquor Licenses (5 of 20, 25%)

Idaho currently requires a license to sell liquor. Since the state keeps a strict limit on the number of total liquor licenses, these licenses have become very valuable. They can be sold by those who currently have them to others who want to sell liquor. Governor Otter has expressed concerns about the way the state system works and the fact that the state creates, in effect, this market for expensive liquor licenses. He has suggested it may be wise to change the system.

15 (tie). Growth Paying for Itself (4 of 20, 20%)

As the third fastest growing state in the nation, Idaho faces considerable growing pains. Some of the most pronounced are the pressures on local governments to accommodate the increased demands created by growth. Many contend that that growth does not pay for the costs it imposes and argue that it should. Several proposals to do this will likely come before the Legislature. One plan would be to increase the extent of impact fees that local government can assess and to increase the ease with which local governments can establish such fees.

A second plan is being proposed by developers and would make it possible to create infrastructure improvement districts. These would be districts that could levy property taxes to pay for new infrastructure in new development areas. Some have opposed this approach because, they argue, it would actually make taxpayers pay for more and developers for less of the infrastructure their developments require.

Since many of the impacts of growth that are most keenly felt are the impacts on roads and highways, a third plan is local option sales taxes. As mentioned above it would give local governments the option, with voter approval, to impose their own sales tax to fund road improvements or public transit.

A fourth plan would change the way new construction is treated in terms of property taxes. Currently, local governments are limited to budget increases of no more than 3% per year, except for the value of new construction. Consequently, some feel that the current system provides an inappropriate incentive for cities and counties to approve new development as a means of increasing their budgets. This proposal would dedicate half of the revenues from new construction to improvements to roads in a given city or county.

15 (tie). State Employee Compensation (4 of 20, 20%)

A concern that low compensation is making it increasingly difficult to attract and retain high quality state employees will likely generate proposals to make state employees' compensation more competitive.

15 (tie). Elk Farming and Shooter-Bull Operations (4 of 20, 20%)

One or more bills are likely to come before the Legislature to further regulate or ban elk farming operations, particularly "shooter-bull" operations where people can pay to go and shoot a domestically raised elk. Long viewed with scorn by some, the issue gained greater urgency after 160 domestic elk escaped from a shooter-bull operation in Ashton, less than forty miles from Yellowstone National Park. Aside from the scorn many hunters and others feel for the unsportsmanlike idea of paying to shoot a domestic elk on a farm, there is a concern that domestic elk could infect wild elk with disease. Although the regular testing of domestic elk herds by Idaho's Agriculture Department have not detected the feared diseases such as brucellosis or chronic wasting disease at this point, some domestic elk in Montana did test positive for chronic wasting disease several years ago and Montana banned domestic elk operations as result. Wyoming also has banned these operations because of this concern and the governor of Montana has called on Idaho to do the same.

18 (tie). Darfur Divestment (3 of 20, 15%)

A bill will be proposed in the Legislature that would require the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) to sell its holdings in 13 specific foreign companies with significant investments in Sudan. This divestment bill, similar to bills that have recently been passed in 22 other states, is aimed at creating economic pressure to get the Sudan government to stop what the U.S. Congress has declared to be genocide. For over four years the government in Sudan has sponsored ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region. Over 400,000 innocent civilians have been killed and more 2.5 million have been driven from their homes and are now dependent on humanitarian aid. The United Nations calls the situation the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

US companies are already prohibited from doing business in Sudan. This summer the Congress took steps to encourage divestment from foreign companies doing business there. The House of Representatives passed a bill by a vote of 418-1 that would encourage the 23 state retirement systems that have not yet divested from foreign companies doing business in Sudan to do so. The Senate version passed unanimously out of the Senate Banking Committee which includes Idaho's Senator Mike Crapo and the final bill is expected to pass into law by January.

Divestment is broadly supported as an effective influence tool partly because the government is dependent on foreign investments but little benefit from those investments are enjoyed by the Sudanese people. Most foreign investments in Sudan are in the oil and gas industry. The government receives 70% of the resulting royalties and revenues which it uses to support the military. Divestment is also supported because it proved to be an effective tool in helping to end apartheid in South Africa.

The Idaho public employee retirement system (PERSI) owns stock totaling approximately $33 million in 13 foreign companies that have been widely targeted for divestment because their extensive business with the Sudan government. This $33 million comprises less than a quarter of 1% of PERSI's holdings. The bill would give PERSI 15 months to complete reinvestment of these funds. Eighteen other states are currently considering similar measures, with many expected to pass this year.

This may be a particularly worthwhile issue for The Common Interest to investigate for several reasons. The magnitude of the human suffering has caused concern in the U.S. that transcends the usual political divides. Conservative evangelical Christians and liberals have united to create the divestment movement, giving it impressive momentum quickly. Despite the breadth of support for these measures, this bill did not make it out of committee in the Idaho Legislature last year. Both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders have suggested to The Common Interest that our involvement could make the difference this year.

18 (tie). Treatment for Drug Abuse and Mental Health (3 of 20, 15%)

There has been a growing consensus that the treatment services the state provides for drug abuse and mental health issues are inadequate, particularly following the quite negative conclusions of an Office of Performance Assessment's evaluation of state services. Several changes have already been undertaken, including a significant reorganization and change in staff at the Department of Health & Welfare, the creation of the Office of Drug Policy, and an interagency committee to coordinate the state's drug abuse efforts. Many still believe that more needs to be done. There may be a number of proposals come forward in this session of the Legislature to deal with these issues. One significant idea that may be discussed is creating a separate agency to address drug abuse and mental health issues. Another probable proposal would create a mental health hospital within the Department of Corrections.

20 (tie). K-12 Education Funding (2 of 20, 10%)

K-12 education funding has been near the top of the list of major issues identified by legislative leaders and reporters in the three previous years we've done this. It is near the bottom this year largely for two reasons. First, significant increases in K-12 funding passed the Legislature last year. Second, most of the attention with respect to the public school budget this year focuses on the teacher merit pay proposal mentioned at the top of the list. Nevertheless, Idaho per student spending remains one of the lowest in the country and so it is still seen as an issue.

Last year, members supported having us take a long-term proactive look at what, if any, specific new investments in K-12 education would be worth making. We are taking steps to get funding for such an undertaking. Accordingly, K-12 education funding generally may not be issue we're well advised to take on in this particular session of the Legislature.

20 (tie). Property Taxes (2 of 20, 10%)

Besides the personal property tax issue described above, two additional suggestions for changes to Idaho property taxes may be considered this year. First, Governor Otter has suggested that Idaho adopt a provision similar to California's Prop. 13 which would cap the property tax assessment on a home at it's level when it was purchased until the home was sold. This proposal was considered during the massive property tax deliberations in the 2006 session. Because of a number of unintended consequences with this measure has had in California, it got little traction. The Common Interest also briefed this proposal during that session and a majority of our members opposed it. Few think that this idea will get traction in the coming session. Partly, this is because the measure to index the homeowner's exemption to the Idaho housing price index continues to limit the degree to which homeowners' property taxes increase. The homeowner's exemption was expanded to $75,000 in 2006. Because of the housing price index, the exemption will be a little over $100,000 next year.

The second property tax measure that will come before the Legislature this year is the one mentioned above in the discussion of growth paying for itself. This proposal would dedicate half of the revenues from new construction to improvements to roads in a given city or county, in part to address the congestion on Idaho roads and in part to end what some consider to be an inappropriate incentive for local governments to approve new development.

20 (tie). Higher Education Funding and Faculty Pay (2 of 20, 10%)

Higher education in Idaho has faced two simultaneous funding challenges in recent years.  First, enrollment in the state's public colleges and universities has increasing rapidly.  Second, the costs of higher education have been rising faster than inflation.  Consequently, the costs borne by students for education have risen dramatically, over 100% over the last ten years.  These costs have increased faster than higher education costs in any other western state.  Idaho ranks 45th of the 50 states in terms of the percentage of its high school graduates going to college. Last year the Legislature took steps to address this problem by providing additional funding for need-based scholarships. Some are suggesting that still more needs to be done. This year there is also more discussion particularly about the need to increase faculty pay to retain high quality higher education in the state.

20 (tie). Wolves (2 of 20, 10%)

Since they were reintroduced to Idaho several years ago, wolves have done better than most expected. Concerned that the impacts on livestock and other wildlife not increase further, some are supporting a proposal that would make it legal to hunt wolves in order to maintain the population around its current level.

20 (tie). Dogfighting (2 of 20, 10%)

After Michael Vick, the former quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was indicted and then confessed to participating in a dogfighting ring, there has been a rising tide of attention paid to state policies on this issue. A proposal will likely come before the Legislature to make dogfighting a felony in Idaho.

20 (tie). Idaho Medical School (2 of 20, 10%)

As mentioned above, one of the concerns about accessibility of health care in Idaho is that there are too few doctors here. Some, including Governor Otter, have suggested that Idaho should establish its own medical school to address this problem. Many argue this is not a cost-effective, practical way to address the problem and the proposal appears to have poor prospects in the Legislature this session.


Question on Limits on Donations to The Common Interest

When we started three years ago, we chose to impose on ourselves a limit of $250 in annual donations from any one individual. Since we aimed to address the disproportionate influence of special interests, we thought that it was important to have internal organizational limits to prevent being influenced ourselves. Several members have indicated they'd like to give us more than $250 per year. The board and Keith Allred have discussed this issue and believe that we could appropriately raise the limit from $250 to $500 without exposing ourselves to special interest influence. We do feel it is important to maintain this self-imposed limit at no more than that level. This is a citizens' organization, however, as so this is ultimately a decision for the membership. Accordingly, the last question on the poll asks you whether you would support or oppose raising the limit to $500.

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