Rexburg Republican Doug Ricks indicated at an Iona forum Saturday night that he’d consider raising taxes on Idahoans, though he’d prefer not to.

The forum moderator asked Ricks if he would have voted for last year’s $95 million gas tax and vehicle fee hike, with the revenue dedicated to repairing Idaho roads and bridges. Ricks, who is challenging Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, for his seat, kept the tax-hike door open.

“It’s hard to tell,” the challenger Ricks said. “I’d prefer not to.”

“If that was the only option there is, that’s something we’d have to think about,” Ricks told the crowd.

Nate voted against the tax-and-fee hike. He said lawmakers should have looked elsewhere, including state general fund dollars, to pay for needed road and bridge repairs.

He noted that fiscal year 2016, the same year the tax-and-fee hike occurs, would likely see $125 million in unexpected revenue pour into state coffers.

Nate noted, the extra revenue validates his opposition to the gas tax and car registration fee hike.

“We could have funded transportation and more without raising taxes if we’d taken advantage of the natural growth in Idaho revenues,” Nate said.

Idaho lawmakers didn’t address road and bridge funding issue during the 2016 legislative session, which concluded in March.

The Idaho Transportation Department believes the state needs hundreds of millions more in revenue to keep up with maintenance demands and to expand the infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population.

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