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Lawmakers hike fees by $20 million, find other cash for roads

Lawmakers hike fees by $20 million, find other cash for roads

Dustin Hurst
March 30, 2015
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March 30, 2015

New funding for Idaho’s roads and bridges keeps coming, piece after piece.

During Monday’s House floor session, members endorsed two bills that could provide as much as $46 million in new road money, a need lawmakers wanted to address during their work this year.

The votes to raise up to $46 million came just hours after lawmakers supported a complex tax plan that included a 7-cent gas tax hike, along with an income tax cut and elimination of the state’s grocery tax.

Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, sponsored the first piece of the two-bill package, a proposal to shift Idaho State Police spending from gas taxes to the state’s general fund. The bill also included a trigger to put more general fund cash toward roads should revenues achieve higher than 4 percent growth in a given year.

The ISP funding shift creates $16 million for roads, while the trigger could add up to another $10 million annually in future years.

Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, opposed the measure, saying it puts ISP’s funding on unstable ground.

Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, the House’s top appropriator, told colleagues the dedicated funding stream for ISP is a better place for the expense.

“I would hope you’d rethink this,” Bell said. “Let’s find another way to take care of our roads.”

Monks said it’s time the state force road dollars to compete with other expenses because that’s how Idaho families run their budgets.

“When my constituents go to their budgets, their dollars compete,” Monks said. “They have to. Every dollar we spend should have to compete.”

His bill cleared on a 39 to 31 vote.

Palmer’s bill generates $20 million for roads, derived from a $15 registration fee hike for cars and trucks, plus a $6 increase for motorcycle registration. The bill also adds a $150 fee to electric car registrations, plus $100 for hybrids.

Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, criticized lawmakers for not doing enough to address Idaho’s road maintenance funding shortage, which officials estimate at $262 million.

“We are not doing our job here,” the Boise Democrat said.

Palmer’s bill cleared on a 43 to 26 vote.

Both bills, along with the tax plan, now head to the Senate for hearings. The Legislature could adjourn for the year as soon as lawmakers finish their work on these three bills and the education budget.

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