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Guest opinion by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

December is a time when we gather gifts for family and friends and for those in need. This generosity is generally understood in the context of a one-way actionâ??a true gift comes with no expectation of something in return. Our gain is the knowledge that the gift has brought someone else joy, respite or relief from trouble. The surprised and excited cries of children on Christmas morning; warm embrace of a loved one on a candlelit evening; or, knowing that a child or family somewhere else is warmer and perhaps a little better off because of an anonymous gift--these are hallmarks of our Holiday season of giving. This year, December heralds another kind of exchange--a two-way exchange which involves an implicit contract between taxpayers and the federal government. We pay taxes and, unlike gifts, we rightfully expect the federal government to use that money wisely for the public good and see some return on our so-called investment. Limited government is always preferable, but there are some appropriate expenditures of federal dollars. Many projects and programs in Idaho depend upon the faithful execution of this contract. In what can truly be called a timely fashion for the United States Congress, the FY 2005 appropriations for the United States Departments of Treasury, Transportation, Justice and Housing and Urban Development has been agreed upon by both Houses, and will go to the President to be signed into law. This appropriations bill, not the largest monetarily but certainly the one which covers a wider scope of agencies than any other (including multiple independent agencies) contains many important Idaho projects including roads, air traffic control towers, funding for Amber Alert, and economic development grants across the state. Air travelers in northern and southern Idaho will be safer because of improvements to the air traffic control towers in Boise and Spokane, and a unique partnership between Boise State University and the Federal Aviation Administration will receive valuable financial assistance for ongoing program development. The inevitable fall, winter and spring rattling of our cars, teeth and assorted family members from Idaho roads in various states of repair will smooth out a little in upcoming months. Funding has been committed to U.S. Highway 95 between Worley and Coeur dâ??Alene, the City of Rocks Backcountry Byway near Burley and Twin Falls and Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway from Banks to Lowman outside Boise. Continuing work on the South Valley Connector Project in Pocatello will reduce congestion, and as we creatively devise ways to achieve better fuel efficiency within the context of our own family transportation, money directed to the Idaho Transit Coalition will help expand public transportation options in Boise, Ketchum, Pocatello and Moscow. Economic development is crucial as our communities grow and change. The appropriations bill contains critical development dollars for projects in Idaho communities including Burley, Rexburg, Pocatello, Lewiston, Franklin and Ada and Franklin counties. These cover a wide range of activities including building construction and repair, Lewis and Clark Bicentennial activities, and the establishment of a family justice center in Boise. These projects are examples of federal tax dollars being rightfully returned to Idaho to benefit Idahoans. The completion of these various projects might not be as exciting to many folks as the newest toy or electronic gadget under the tree this year, but it does indicate that, in these instances, the terms of the implicit contract between taxpayers and their government are being met. WORD COUNT: 578