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Idaho Airport Debt, HJR 5 (2010)

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The Idaho Airport Debt Amendment, also known as House Joint Resolution 5, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Idaho as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure allowed airports to issue revenue and special facility bonds in order to improve facilities, equipment and acquisitions such as real property. Debts would have to be paid off using airport revenues instead of using taxpayer money. The measure was one of three proposed amendments on the ballot that would help clear up confusion about when local governments can fund projects if taxpayer money wasn't used to reimburse a debt. It was co-sponsored by Senator Fred Wood (R-27B).[1][2][3][4]

Election results

Idaho HJR 5 (2010)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 227,492 53.36%
No198,86846.64%

Election results via: Idaho Secretary of State

Text of measure

Ballot title

The ballot title read as:[4]

"Shall Article VIII, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a New Section 3E, to provide for the issuance of revenue and special facility bonds by political subdivisions of the state and regional airport authorities as defined by law, if operating an airport to acquire, construct, install, and equip land, facilities, buildings, projects or other property, which are hereby deemed to be for a public purpose, to be financed for, or to be leased, sold or otherwise disposed of to persons, associations or corporations, or to be held by the subdivision or regional airport authority, and may in the manner prescribed by law issue revenue and special facility bonds to finance the costs thereof; provided that any such bonds shall be payable solely from fees, charges, rents, payments, grants, or any other revenues derived from the airport or any of its facilities, structures, systems, or projects, or from any land, facilities, buildings, projects or other property financed by such bonds, and shall not be secured by the full faith and credit or the taxing power of the subdivision or regional airport authority?."[5]

Summary

The summary of the proposed amendment read as follows:[6]

"Currently, local governmental entities that operate airports and regional airport authorities cannot incur indebtedness without the approval of a two-thirds vote at an election held for that purpose. This proposed amendment will allow local governmental entities that operate airports and regional airport authorities to issue revenue and special facility bonds to acquire, construct, install and equip land, facilities, buildings, projects or other property. Voter approval will not be required to incur such indebtedness, as long as the bonds are paid for by fees, charges, rents, payments, grants or other revenues derived from the airport or its facilities. The use of tax dollars to repay such bonds is prohibited."[5]

Constitutional changes

The measure was proposed to amend Section 3, Article VIII of the Idaho Constitution by adding Section 3e to read as follows.[7][8]

Section 3e. Airport Debt
Political subdivisions of the state and regional airport authorities as defined by law, if operating an airport, may acquire, construct,install, and equip land, facilities, buildings, projects or other property, which are hereby deemed to be for a public purpose, to be financed for, or to be leased, sold or otherwise disposed of to persons, associations or corporations, or to be held by the subdivision or regional airport authority, and may in the manner prescribed by law issue revenue and special facility bonds to finance the costs thereof; provided that any such bonds shall be payable solely from fees, charges, rents, payments, grants, or any other revenues derived from the airport or any of its facilities structures, systems, or projects, or from any land, facilities, buildings, projects or other property financed by such bonds, and shall not be secured by the full faith and credit or the taxing power of the subdivision or regional airport authority. No provision of this constitution including, but not limited to, sections 3 and 4 of article VIII and section 4 of article XII, shall be construed as a limitation upon the authority granted under this section."

Support

Supporters

  • According to the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and other city leaders supported the measure. The IFF obtained recorded showing that the city submitted six statements in support of the measure to the Legislative Services Office. Also, the IFF stated that the city did not submit any signatures against the amendment.[9]
  • Toni Lawson, Idaho Hospital Association vice president of governmental relations, along with the Boise Airport Commission Chair, Paul Cunningham, supports the measure. According to Lawson, "If no taxpayer dollars are being used, it makes no sense...to jump through an election. However, your dollars will be used every time we have to organize and election to buy an MRI machine.”[10]
  • State Representative Wendy Jaquet stated her support for the measure, arguing, "For example, an airport could construct a parking garage with projected parking fees to pay off the bond. No property taxes would be involved, so a two-thirds vote would not be required if this passes."[11]

Arguments

The following arguments were the summarized official statements for the proposed amendment found on the Idaho Secretary of State's website:[6]

  • Airports should have the ready ability to construct needed facilities.
  • Regional airport authorities need ability to efficiently operational needs.
  • If the proposed amendment isn't passed, Idaho could lose economic development opportunities.
  • Public airports are important to the economic development and commerce in the state.

Opposition

Opponents

  • David Frazier, an Idaho resident, had concerns about the measure, because it removed a court decision back in 2006; a court decision that Frazier was apart of. The requirement to get voter approval for long-term debt originated from a ruling made by the Idaho Supreme Court in the case of Frazier vs. City of Boise. The ruling, according to reports, stated that the government could no longer take on multi-year debt for certain projects. The case was brought up in court when Frazier argued that the city's plans for a $27, million parking garage and a $19 million police station without voter approval should not happen. Frazier stated about the three debt measures that were on the November 2010 ballot, “The one thing they all have in common is to deny the citizens the constitutional right that they have to approve debt, public debt...Citizens did not come to the Legislature and say, ‘Hey, we’ve tired of voting and we’d like you to take our right to vote away.'”[12]
  • Larry Spencer, a Northern Idaho delegate, stated that the measure would allow local governments to begin pursuing unnecessary projects. Spencer argued, "Do you want to end up with everything around airports being government-owned and off the tax rolls, rather than privately owned and paying taxes?"[13]

Arguments

The following arguments were the summarized official statements against the proposed amendment found on the Idaho Secretary of State's website:[6]

  • The state constitutional requirement mandating a two-thirds approval from voters before regional airport authority enters debt is an important safeguard for state residents.
  • Amendment will allow political subdivisions and regional airport authorities to acquire projects that are not limited to airport operations.
  • Buildings and land owned by the government are not taxed. As a result, they should provide no revenues to any levying authorities.
  • Changes to the Constitution should be made only for major issues.

Three amendments on dialogue

On Idaho Public Television, the three debt amendments, HJR 4, HJR 5 and HJR 7 were discussed by Senator Joe Stegner, who sponsored all three measures, and Dave Frazier, who was against the measure. The dialogue included callers with questions about the measures and lasted for approximately half an hour:

Reports, analysis and studies

The Boise City Council considered paying $60,000 to Gallatin Public Affairs in order to education the area's residents on the ballot measure. TJ Thomson, Boise City Council member, stated that the measure boiled down to being a business decision. Thomson stated, "It comes down to a common sense of a business type decision at the airport level." Thomson, who stated that he is for the measure, is against paying $60,000 towards educating people.

The Boise City Council approved of paying the $60,000 on July 20, 2010, with only Thomson voting against the expense, even though he was in support of the measure. Dave Frazier, a local blogger in Boise, and who filed a lawsuit in 2008 that led to the state supreme court ruling that said that the Boise Airport couldn’t sell bonds without a public vote, was against the measure and the $60,000 being used to educate people. Frazier stated that the efforts were "a thinly veiled effort to influence an election issue.”[9]

The City of Boise also developed an impartial website to better inform voters of the issue.[14]

Media endorsements

See also: Endorsements of Idaho ballot measures, 2010

Support

  • Twin Falls Times News said, "None of these amendments will add a nickel to your tax bill. And they’re a common sense investment in Idaho’s economic future."[15]
  • Idaho Statesman said "They should vote yes on three complicated but important constitutional amendments to allow these public entities to finance projects and purchases without voter approval."[16]

Path to the ballot

The Idaho House of Representatives approved the measure with a vote of 57-12 on February 24, 2010, sending the amendment to the Idaho State Senate for consideration. On March 10, 2010, the Senate State Affairs Committee approved the amendment, as well as the other two proposed debt measures, leaving the final step of a Senate vote to place it on the ballot.

The Idaho State Senate cleared the way for voters to decide on the measure, and the other two debt amendments on March 16, 2010. According to reports, vote on the measure was 34-1.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23]

See also

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References

  1. Local News 8, "State Representative Erik Simpson discusses Power Bill," February 15, 2010
  2. Bloomberg Business Week, "Idaho House panel backs amendment to help cities," February 22, 2010
  3. Idaho Secretary of State, "Idaho Constitutional Amendment History", accessed April 29, 2014]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Idaho Secretary of State, "2010 General Election Proposed Constitutional Amendments", accessed April 29, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Idaho Secretary of State, "2010 Proposed Constitutional Amendments"
  7. Idaho Legislature, "Statement of Purpose"
  8. Idaho Legislature, "House Joint Resolution No. 5"
  9. 9.0 9.1 TMCNews, "Boise approves $60,000 for education campaign in the next election: The City Council says spending airport funds to inform the public about a ballot measure is legal," July 21, 2010
  10. Boise Weekly, "Debate gains steam over Idaho constitutional amendments," October 7, 2010
  11. Idaho Mountain Express, "Constitutional amendments are sensible," October 22, 2010
  12. Magic Valley Times-News, "Voters to decide if long-term debt needs a vote," September 2, 2010
  13. Daily Record, "Boise, Idaho activist on personal crusade to kill amendments," October 2, 2010
  14. HJR 5 Facts, accessed October 18, 2010
  15. Magic Valley.com, "Three constitutional amendments make sense for Idaho's future," October 26, 2010
  16. Idaho Statesman, "Our View: Vote yes, four times on constitutional amendments," October 29, 2010
  17. Times-News Magic Valley, "Debt amendments clear the Senate Amendments to go to Idaho voters in November," March 17, 2010
  18. Idaho Reporter, "Constitutional amendments on debt face Senate vote," March 10, 2010
  19. Idaho Reporter, "House panel approves hospital debt plan," February 17, 2010
  20. KTVB.com, "House backs measure to help hospitals take on debt," February 23, 2010
  21. Idaho Reporter, "Constitutional amendments on debt face Senate vote," March 10, 2010
  22. Idaho Reporter, "Airport debt amendment clears House on 57-12 vote," February 25, 2010
  23. Times-News Magic Valley, "A long-term solution to long-term debt? Hospitals, airports, public power, seek less rigid debt limits," February 23, 2010