||Senator Compton presented this bill that amends existing law to provide for
land-based port district authorization; to provide for the formation of land-based
port districts; to provide for the formation of regional land-based port districts; to
provide for annexation of land to land-based port districts; to provide for
commissioners and commissioner districts; to provide for the revision of
commissioner districts; to provide for the application of designated law relating
to port districts; and to provide for dis-incorporation of land-based port districts.
This bill is patterned after the Lewiston Port Authority, and neighboring states
are now implementing the procedures that asked for with this legislation. It’s
purpose is to expand the opportunity of creating port districts to areas that are
not adjacent to continuous waterways and to allow the creation of port districts
in multiple county situations.
Nancy Eschief Murillo, representing the Shoshone Bannock tribes in Ft. Hall,
Idaho spoke in opposition to the bill. She said the airport is located near the
reservation in Fort Hall, Idaho, where they have 544,000 people living. The
tribe is trying to buy back land with taxes, and she felt that the Shoshone
Bannock tribe has the right of first refusal.
Dale Aldridge, President, Port of Lewiston commission, spoke in favor of the
bill saying that the port is very involved in international trade. The cargo is
almost 100% outbound as opposed to inbound. Most importantly, is the
economic development and job creation.
Vicki Meadows, Power County Commissioner spoke in Opposition to the bill.
Paul Lage, prosecuting attorney for Kootenai county spoke in opposition to the
bill saying they are ini favor of economic development, but have some
questions as to what this bill will do. He felt that there is no reason why a port
authority needs to cross county lines, and that this legislation is unclear as to
where you would vote.
Ray Bursted, President, Idaho Economic Development Assn. spoke in favor of
the bill, saying that the Assn. sees that this could be a great economic
development opportunity and passing of this bill would attract more industry to
Steve Ahrens spoke in opposition to this legislation on behalf of the Idaho
Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI) There are members who are in
support, but as IACI is a broad based association and they make decisions
based on what the members consider to be in the best interest of the state
business community as a whole. He said attempts had been made more than
once to broaden the port authority, and IACI was opposed to those as well.
They appreciate all the efforts put into this, but they have reservations, and no
argument about two areas. The desire of the sponsors to accomplish economic
development, and the eagerness to do it, is appropriate, Also, the success of
the Lewiston Port has been a star in Idaho’s economy for a number of years.
Whichever way the debate of this goes, it is not reflective of the Lewiston Port.
The Association feels they don’t have answers to the following issues.
1. There is concern about creation of addition taxing districts in the State of
Idaho, as 60 new ones have been created in the last year. There are now 1066
in Idaho, all with the ability to levy taxes.
2. The members have said they are not convinced that it is necessary to make
this change in order to carry on economic development activities.
3. The tax that would be levied, which would be 1/10th of 1%, as Senator
Compton said, but ten years ago, the tax proposal was a small thing as well,
and with the addition of tax districts, and we are all paying more taxes. It does
add up as you multiply it by the number of taxing districts. The big things can
get out of hand when you don’t pay attention to the small things.
4. The existing port authority statues are designed for a specific purpose, that
of a seaport and there is no question about the existing port’s authority. The
question is if the statutes are applicable to a totally different thing, which is a
land-locked facility. There are questions to be answered before deciding
whether to take a seaport statute and magically transform it by adding an “or”
and make it into a land-locked statute. In Section 70-15-05, the language is
very broad in authority, yet powerful.
IACI members want to be sure that when the purpose of this statute is
transformed, that it is still okay in its new application where you are going to
contemplate a new port district in Blaine or Elmore County. He asked that the
bill be held in committee.
Senator Goedde asked if the port districts have ever been challenged
according to constitutionality, and was told by Mr. Ahrens that as a
Statesman/Reporter he covered the story when the port was established at
Lewiston and to his knowledge it hadn’t ever been challenged.
Senator Werk asked if he had the picture correct, as he felt he had heard two
different things from Mr. Ahrens. One being an aversion to a proliferation of
taxing districts, no matter what they are for. The other is that there is a level of
discomfort with some of the language in the bill which was written for something
else, and with some changes could work for this issue. Could the language be
altered so that IACI would be comfortable with it, even though it would create
taxing districts? Mr. Ahrens responded that members of IACI are interesting in
economic development and making Idaho a better place to do business, but
they are concerned about more taxing districts. Whether that means that the
proposal, after being weighed, and with all the elements might lead them to
support it, he wouldn’t say. He did say they are very concerned about the
proliferation of taxing districts in the last 10 years and would like to hold them
as low as possible.
Senator Compton commented that IACI is viewed as an organization that
promotes programs that would enhance the economic conditions and the
atmosphere by where Idaho could do business, and he can see this legislation
as something that can move us in that direction. Sometimes there aren’t laws
that enable us to do these things, and the local communities have to find ways
to rebuild their communities, given the atmosphere as with Astaris and Micron
and those kinds of business. Little communities are desperate for these kinds
of things and if we can come up with things where they have local input
whether they are taxing themselves for something of benefit of the community,
would Mr. Ahrens still be opposed. Mr. Ahrens responded that he wanted to
make sure that the statutory language that is written specifically to apply to one
narrow project will apply equally to all 43 other counties under different kinds of
operations, and concerns. The members are not comfortable right now as to
how that relates.
Charles Clark, representing Union Pacific Railroad spoke in support of S1090.
He felt uncomfortable following the Pres. Of IACI, as he has been a member of
that organization for 26 years.
He feels he understands transportation in our state quite well, and he is
learning more about economic development. He also was asked by Governor
Kempthorne to look at the situation in Bannock County. From a transportation
angle, Pocatello ought to be a transportation hub, maybe not a major one like
Portland or Seattle, but there are things that can be done in Southeastern Idaho
to make this a hub. There are major Interstate highways, 84 and I-15 and the
railroad rolling through there, and, the airport and the infrastr5ucture lends
itself to this type of transportation hub. My company would prefer to do this, but
even then they don’t have enough spaces to fill the needs of the hub that is
being looked at. Looking at the members of the committee, he could make a
case for a port district for transportation needs in each of their areas. There
are two possibilities in Treasure Valley, one at Orchard, and one at Nampa.
Going farther north, from a railroad point of view they are two class one
railroads, UPRR and Burlington Northern that run through Kootenai county.
This could capture some of the NAPA business that is running through Canada
and moving across. UPRR is not a great fan of paying additional taxes and
there would be more taxes if this port district were put in place, but the
conclusion the company’s tax department has come to is that the benefits
would probably outweigh the tax. UPRR serves the port of Montana out of
Butte, and Montana’s economy is similar to Pocatello, which has survived some
tough economic times. The credit for the success of that port is the excellent
manager there. That port has provided jobs and alternative transportation
modes dealing with grain, fertilizer, aggregates, and if it weren’t for the port of
Montana, he questions whether the UPRR line would survive from Pocatello to
General Motors approached UPRR and asked for a distribution carrier for their
products to serve the Dakotas, part of Minnesota, Wyoming and Montana, and
a need a place to bring the automobiles. One phone call was made to the port
of Montana, and they built a fence, asphalted some ground, had the personnel
and now all the vehicles from General Motors are distributed out of Montana.
Ken Estep, Power County Commissioner spoke in opposition of the bill, as
they feel it is unclear as far as economic development. FMC (Food Machinery
and Chemical Corporation) in Pocatello is 11% of their tax base and they are not
opposed to the economic development in anyway. He said the Commissioners felt that
if it is going to be voted in by the county, it should be a super majority or at least 60%,
and not a simple majority and if it involves two counties, this should pass both counties
by this percent.
Neil Coldwell representing Avista Corporation, a gas and electric utility that
operates in northern Idaho, previously known as Washington Water Power.
They are headquartered in Spokane, but do have about 30,000 customers in
Idaho. One of those customers is the Port of Lewiston, and they are in favor of
the economic aspects of this proposal. Avista is a member of IACI, and some
friends are in favor and some are opposed. Whenever the Legislature grants
authority to an area to create taxing districts it is always a tough decision as to
whether the benefits are going to outweigh the costs and risks associated.
With the caps on property tax that goes with this, is felt to be a fairly reasonable
restriction. A lot of the discussion seems to apply around the Pocatello area,
but it can apply to other areas of the state. With the situation that the state
finds itself in, it may be time to go ahead and expand these districts, and let
those locals decide to take that risk. He encouraged the committee if they
weren’t going to pass the legislation in its current form, to not let the issue die,
but address the specifics to solve the concerns.
Senator Marley told the committee that this was the first baby step, and if this
legislation passed, nothing would happen until it goes to the local level and
starts working. They tried to find a simple solution and put in and “and’s” and
“or’s” to make it both river and land based, but it got the legislation headed in
the area it needs to go. A trailer bill can come back with the election issues, if
that is a concern, because nothing is going to happen in the communities until
they have the idea of the concept of a port authority . There is a lot of interest
in port authority in Southeastern Idaho, and he felt that one in Bannock County
should be considered in McCammon, where there are two railroads coming
from Wyoming and Utah, and !-15 joins Highway 30, which would be a perfect
place for economic development and a port authority. There are those who
would like to look in the direction of the airport. It will create some much
needed infrastructure to attract businesses to this area. He admitted that this
isn’t a perfect bill but hopes it will be sent to the floor for debate.
Senator Compton responded to the issues raised in discussion. Before
anyone can be annexed in a voting district, the voters have to give approval.
Establishing a free trade zone, has nothing to do with port authority. In lieu of
taxes, if the port authority owns the building and they have a tenant who is
normally a tax paying entity, they pay the rent and the taxes on top of that.
That goes to the treasurer and is distributed to the taxing districts. The port
authority has the qualification that they can get snow plows or other materials
through the federal government, and have that ability. The people that drafted
this have worked very well with the Lewiston port authority and feel that it will
operate well off the Navajo river. Looking at what other states have done, it will
work in Idaho and is a great tool for economic development. Nothing is easy,
our forefathers would not have come here and built schools, etc. if it they took
the easy road. This will help the schools and he feels it should go forward.