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Amendment Debate

Two measures slated for the November ballot pit voters' rights against economic development and could change the way hospitals and airports fund capital projects.

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Two measures slated for the November ballot pits voters' rights against economic development and could change the way hospitals and airports fund capital projects.

A 2006 Idaho Supreme Court decision blocked the Boise airport from building a parking garage and halted the ability of airports and hospitals to incur debt without voters' approval. Passage of HJR 4 and HJR 5 would allow governments to enter into long-term debt without voters' approval.

One of the proposal's most vocal opponents said the resolutions would thwart voters' rights.

"No group came forward and said, 'We're tired of voting and want politicians to decide what to do with our money,'" said Boise Guardian editor, photojournalist and activist, David Frazier, who brought the case against the Boise airport to Idaho's high court.

"We would like to go back to the way we did business for 30 years without problems," countered Toni Lawson, Idaho Hospital Association vice president of governmental relations.

Measure HJR 4 allows public hospitals to incur debt without an election to acquire facilities, equipment, technology and real property as long as other revenues--not taxpayer dollars--pay the bill. A second proposal, HJR 5 would allow airports to issue non-taxpayer-backed bonds for capital improvements without a vote.

Lawson joined Boise Airport Commission Chair Paul Cunningham in defending the measures. Cunningham said a 20-year airport master plan predicts a 15 percent funding shortfall.

"We need to have revenue bonds as a means to help," he said.

Proponents say the amendments don't usurp voters' rights as elections maintain fiscal accountability. Without passage of the amendment, Cunningham said voter-based financial decisions "almost border on micromanaging very complex public institutions."

But Frazier said the status quo guards the voice of the voter.

"The people have a right to weigh in on how their money is being spent, regardless of the source." Frazier said. "All I'm asking for is that safeguard."

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