The man at the head of a committee assigned with the duty of finding more revenue for road maintenance for the state of Idaho says that a plan passed by the Oregon Legislature to increase that state’s gas tax is “very interesting.” Lt. Gov. Brad Little, head of Gov. Butch Otter’s Transportation Task Force, told IdahoReporter.com Wednesday that the Oregon proposal is one that could come before the committee before it completes its work.
Oregon’s gas tax increase, passed earlier this year by lawmakers, won’t go into effect until the state’s economy shows two straight quarters – or six straight months – of economic growth or until January of 2011, whichever comes first. Economists say that the state’s recovery is slow-going and that an early enactment of the tax increase appears unlikely.
When the gas tax increase eventually goes into effect, drivers in Oregon will see the price of gas jump by 6 cents. Lawmakers in Idaho rejected a plan pitched by Gov. Butch Otter in 2009 that would have raised the gas tax by one penny.
Little and some state lawmakers have met several times this year to decide how the state should move forward to increase roadwork funding. Several ideas have come before the committee, including plans to increase the gas tax, increase wholesale gas taxes, impose a surcharge fee on rental cars, and charging heavy trucks more for driving on Idaho’s highways.
Little, in an e-mail to IdahoReporter.com, said that the Oregon idea might spark some interest from committee members, but that he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions before the panel concludes its work. “I think that the Oregon proposal is very interesting and is absolutely worth consideration,” said Little. “I will plan on bringing this proposal to the attention of the task force at some point in the near future, since I do not want to get ahead of them, as they draw nearer to the end of this process.”
It is possible that when the task force finishes its work later this year, it could ultimately recommend an increase in state gas taxes, but there are two ways committee members could choose to enact an increase. One way is to set a definite amount – such as one penny – and let that stand. Another avenue panel members could take would be to index gas tax increases to cost-of-living increases and inflation.
The panel is scheduled to meet later this month and is expected to finalize recommendations at that meeting. It will then send recommendations to the full Idaho Legislature, which can choose to adopt or ignore the proposals of the panel.