The House passed legislation Friday that would increase fees on the commercials vehicles carrying hazardous materials. The bill, sponsored by Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, will, in some instances, more than triple the amount those vehicles with hazmat endorsements are required to pay.
During committee testimony on the matter, Idaho State Police (ISP) Capt. Lamont Johnson said the increase will allow the division of the department that handles hazmat matters to be fully self-funded. The division currently has five officers, two of whom with salaries coming from the current fees. The other three officers are paid for by the general fund appropriation to the department.
If approved by the Senate, the fee hike could generate as much as an additional $520,000 a year to help the division cover costs. Approximately $70,000 of that money would go to the Idaho Department of Education to pay for hazmat trainings programs and the rest of the new revenue would cover the salary and benefits of the five officers, as well as “capital outlay” expenditures, such as the purchase of new ISP vehicles and other equipment.
The fee to obtain a hazmat endorsement for commercial vehicles is $3 if the purchase coincides with the registration of the vehicle and $5 if purchased at a port of entry. The new fee would be a flat $10 charge. The fee was initiated in 1970 and hasn’t been changed since its inception, said Hagedorn, in his testimony on the House floor.
Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, who has been critical of the fee hike since it was first discussed in committee, said, in an interview with IdahoReporter.com, that the department is masking a tax hike by calling it a fee increase. Palmer joined with three other legislators in voting against the measure in the House.
“I don’t think they need more money to run the program,” Palmer said. “And it’s too much of an increase.” He added that doubling and tripling the amount commercial vehicles pay could negatively affect business, which he said is already hurting in tough economic times.
Hagedorn says the move is simply to free up more general fund money by moving the hazmat division onto a user fee. He said he expects the increases of $5 and $7 to be passed on to customers of those required to obtain hazmat endorsement, but says the amounts are too small to make much of a difference. He added that he doesn’t expect the fee hike to negatively impact the trucking industry in Idaho.
The bill now moves on to the Senate for consideration.