Sunday, April 19, 2009

End of the road?

Well, tomorrow will be the 99th day of the 2009 legislative session. That's right, 99, as in only one a way from triple digits. As has been widely reported, there are essentially two issues preventing us from going home. First is the mainstay going home issue, the budget. The second issue, transportation funding, has held the same position for two years. The question is, will this week be the end of the road?

I think its pretty clear that the budget will be taken care of early this week, save perhaps the public education budgets. The latter is being delayed due to some impending legislation that seeks to change the statutory responsibility for funding public education. The bills, HB 256, HB 262, and HB 303 are all major shifts in education policy. But I'll save the education discussion for another day.

Transportation is a whole different issue. After having read the Idaho Statesman editorial on the issue today, I took pause. I thought long and hard about the role I have played in this debate. In their words:

CENTER? WHAT CENTER? Coming into the session, Otter's best chance of getting road repair money rested in bipartisanship - and forging a centrist coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats. But from those bygone early days of the session, Democrats have ripped Otter for putting potholes before people, and Otter has made it far too easy for Boise Democrats to criticize needed repairs to an aging road system.
Blame all around. Democrats have demagogued the issue. Otter has been unable to reach across party lines.

Demagoguery? Seriously? Perhaps the Statesman forgot to read Otter's response to the House's decision to decline raising taxes on fuel or to some of the debate in favor. But that's not my point here. The point is that my position on the issue has been crystal clear from the beginning. Consider this response from the 2008 Idaho Statesman Voter Guide as proof:

Gov. Butch Otter says Idaho needs hundreds of millions of dollars in highway improvements it cannot pay for with existing revenues. What, if anything, should the state do to improve transportation? How would you pay for these improvements?

Branden J. Durst: As I have stated on my blog ( funding doesn't occur in a vacuum. Do roads need to be improved? Absolutely. Is there enough money to do it? Probably not. Unfortunately, advocating for highway funding and not mass transit doesn't make sense. The solution to the transportation problem, especially in the Treasure Valley, must include local-option authority without an unnecessary and capricious constitutional amendment.

I guess if being up front about your position during a campaign and then advocating for your position as you had stated it is demagoguery, I suppose I am guilty as charged. But I have a different word for it, honesty. If people in District 18 wanted to elect someone that would write a blank check to Governor Otter and ITD for transportation without any other considerations, they should have elected someone else. I don't take my position in order to achieve some sort of visceral emotional response. I have taken my position to protect the taxpayers of District 18 and ensure the long term strategic interest of the State of Idaho.

Anyway, while I do suspect that end of the road is near my position won't change. Transportation funding is needed, but a comprehensive approach must be the solution. Without it, we will continue to kick the can down the street and delay the inevitable.

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