The Idaho Senate approved 34-0 legislation delaying a plan to remove $20 million funding from the state gas tax to parks and police. The plan now awaits Gov. Butch Otter’s signature. Lawmakers voted last year to shift the money from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation and Idaho State Police back to the Idaho Transportation Department, which gets the rest of the state gas tax.
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said the Legislature is backing off after further study of the issue. “We felt like we had gone too far last session,” he said about removing the funding for state parks. The $4 million for parks comes from gas sales to off-road vehicles, and is spent maintaining off-road trails. “We had reached an agreement that made a lot of sense.”
“It really made more sense to leave that funding in place,” said Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene. “It was a very clear pathway between how the funding was generated and how it was spent.” Hammond and Cameron said they’ve identified several new funding sources of $16 million for ISP, needed to offset losing the gas tax money. However, they said they are waiting for suggestions on additional funding for ITD to build and maintain roads. A task force is scheduled to come up with new recommendations for finding new highway money in December.
“Difficult decisions are coming up,” said Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, a member of the task force and chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Our roads are not getting any better, and every year we fall further and further behind. Not in expansion of our roads, but in maintenance of our roads.”