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House votes down POST fee increase

The Idaho House has voted down a proposed $1.50 increase in fees for the POST academy, where Idaho's police officers are trained, from $10 to $11.50. The fee increase, proposed by the Idaho State Police in HB 26, failed on a 31-35 vote after intense debate. Charged on felony, misdemeanor, traffic or ordinance violations, the fee currently provides 72 percent of POST's funding.

Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, decried the bill as “starting to open the door” to more fees to boost budgets. “We're going to open up and expand fees to fund those things which we would normally take the reductions for, like every other area in state government,” he said. “Are we going to let fees continue to expand, or are we going to try to stick to a budget?”

Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, a retired state trooper, urged against such logic. “I'm telling you in the long run we'll pay a terrible price for it,” he warned. He said the fee to support POST has been in place for 29 years, and the increase is needed. “The decision's really yours.  … This is one of those that is a necessity for the public safety,” he said. “There are some key ingredients that law enforcement need to do their job effectively, and this is really one of them.”

Rep. Julie Ellsworth, R-Boise, said, “By the end of this legislative session, we're going to see a lot of fee increases.” She said she wasn't persuaded that the POST fee needed to increase and questioned why more information wasn't provided to lawmakers. Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, called the issue a “slippery slope,” and said, “Unfortunately I believe that this is a bad avenue to go down to fund those efforts.” Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, said, “There is another way to solve this. … Who uses it? The cities and counties. The cities and counties could be made to pay more.”

Rep. Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, said there's more demand for POST training now as the security needs of society have increased. “The demands upon POST have increased, but the funds to support that training have not,” he said. Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, a former city councilwoman, said, “The cities and counties are in just the same financial bind as everyone else, or as the state at this point.” The POST fee targets only violators, not all taxpayers, she noted.

Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, the bill's House sponsor, said it's not wise to take a “blanket” approach against all additional fees. “I believe that public safety should be your priority,” she told the House, adding that it's “not fair to our police officers” to send them out without the training they need.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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