BOISE -- A couple of the issues on the November 2nd ballot are sparking heated debate in some circles.
House Joint Resolutions Four and Five would amend Idaho's Constitution to allow public hospitals (HJR 4) and airports (HJR 5) to go into debt to purchase equipment, facilities, or land, without a vote of the people.
Right now in Idaho, if public hospitals or airports want to use a revenue bond, (that's a bond without taxpayer dollars), to buy something that would put them into debt for more than a year, they need a two-thirds vote in an election. That's unless the revenue bond is for an ordinary and necessary improvement. And that, according to Dave Frazier, is how the public hospitals and airports have been getting around this law.
All of these things that we're looking at, whether it be hospitals, power, cities, or the airport, seek to deny us the rights that the Constitution guarantees us, said Frazier.
Frazier doesn't want the people to lose their voice. The local, self-proclaimed watchdog brought a lawsuit against the city of Boise in 2004 over a proposed parking garage expansion at the Boise Airport. In 2006, he won his appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court. So now, hospitals and airports have to define those ordinary and necessary improvements as also carrying an unforeseen expense of an emergency nature.
What we're looking at here is allowing elected officials to do their job, said Paul Cunningham, chair of the Boise Airport Commission.
At a forum today in Boise, supporters of the resolutions say all this is getting in the way of economic progress.
If no taxpayer dollars are being used, it makes no sense for regular decisions for hospitals to jump through the added hoop of an election, said Toni Lawson, VP of Government Relations with the Idaho Hospital Association.
We have a lot of capital needs at the airport, to meet the growing demand, said Cunningham. We think that revenue bonds are a proven, safe means of funding capital projects. It's used by all of our neighboring states, and frankly, it puts Idaho at a competitive disadvantage.
Currently, the only two states in the West that require a vote on things like this are Idaho and California.
I don't have a problem with third runways, I don't have a problem with new terminal buildings, as long as we let the people vote, said Frazier.
Supporters also say taxpayers are not on the hook if a public hospital or airport defaults on a revenue bond. The lender is. Opponents say fees can still be shifted to the public and that the vote of the people is just one more safeguard.
The hospitals that HJR 4 is referring to are public hospitals like in Weiser and Emmett. St. Luke's and St. Alphonsus are not impacted by this legislation.