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Senate adds $107 million in tax hikes to transportation bill, sends to House

Senate adds $107 million in tax hikes to transportation bill, sends to House

Dustin Hurst
April 8, 2015
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April 8, 2015

Members of the Idaho Senate added $107 million in gas taxes hikes and registration fee increases to a House bill to fund upkeep of roads and bridges across the state.

After amending the plan, the Senate cleared the bill on a 22 to 13 vote.

In total, the measure would mean $127 million a year out of taxpayers’ pockets if the plan comes to fruition.

That would put Idaho no. 9 in the country for highest gas tax rates, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The Tax Foundation puts Idaho at No. 13 nationally if the plan finds its way into law.

The bill, after amendments, is relatively simple: a $25 per vehicle hike in registration fees, plus a 10-cent gas tax hike, to be phased through a four-year period.

The gas taxes would generate $91 million annually when fully in-place and the registration fees hikes would add another $36 million, totaling $127 million a year.

That’s significantly less than the $262 million annual road funding gap Idaho Transportation Department officials say the state has, but far more than the $20 million the House bill originally offered when it come to the Senate.

The bill originally hiked registration fees $15 on cars and trucks, $6 on motorcycles.

The Senate amendments also reduce by $10 the original bill’s $150 extra fee on all-electric cars, plus it reduces the additional hybrid fee from $100 to $75.

“I think this is a good compromise,” said bill sponsor Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson. “It is a good down payment on our shortfall.”

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, opposed the bill, not because of the huge tax and fee hikes, but because of the rushed nature of the legislation.

“If we pass this, my constituents will never be heard on it,” Burgoyne told colleagues. “I didnt think that’s the way we did business.”

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said voters gave him a mandate to find more money for roads, even if it’s tough. “The people that sent me here expect this kind of action,” Rice said. “They have given input.”

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, objected to the bill because it lacks any contributions from the state’s general fund, which has been historically used to fund schools, welfare and prisons.
Gov. Butch Otter said at the beginning of the session and again last week that he wants lawmakers to avoid using general fund dollars for roads.

Vick said lawmakers should have found money in general fund spending hikes, at least $200 million in this year, to ease the burden of the gas tax and fee increases.

“To the citizens, it all comes out of the same pocket for them,” Vick said. “They have to budget for it. To those people, this is all the same money.”

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said while he doesn’t want to raise taxes, the need overrides his opinions.

“I wasn’t sent here to raise taxes,” he said. “But I was sent here to take care of our infrastructure.”

In closing, Brackett said on the whole, Idaho’s cost of transportation is relatively low for residents and travelers. He encouraged senators to accept an imperfect bill in order to move the issue forward.

“Is it perfect?” Brackett asked. “No. I can tell you it is not.”

The measure now heads to the House. The House Transportation and Defense Committee will decide if it wants to concur with the changes. Panel Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, wouldn’t hint about his committee’s intentions.

“It will be put before the committee to see what they think about the bill,” Palmer told IdahoReporter.com Tuesday.

House Republican leadership has said they won’t pass any road-funding measures unless the Senate also approves some form of tax relief.

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