The Idaho Senate could seek as much as $170 million in tax and fee hikes to fund Idaho road and bridge repair, according to a document sent to IdahoReporter.com Thursday.
The package, still in the works, could include a 7-cent gas tax hike, a new auto insurance premium tax and increases to auto and truck registration fees, plus some sort of per-mile tax for heavy trucks.
The package would likely generate $100 million for repairs in fiscal year 2016, and about $169 million a year when fully phased in.
Because the Idaho Constitution requires all tax hikes start in the House, senators cannot run their own legislation containing all the pieces. Instead, it’s likely they’ll use House Bill 312 to carry their plans.
That bill, originally a $20 million registration fee hike package, could see action on the Senate floor as early as Monday. The bill cleared the Senate Transportation Committee Thursday with little discussion, even from the sponsor, Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian.
“House Bill 312,” said Palmer, chair of the House Transportation and Defense Committee, for his opening remarks “It’s all yours.”
Palmer offered to answer any questions about the plan, and then gave senators one more thought. “Good bill,” he said. “Should pass.”
He then abruptly left the hearing room, unusual for a sponsor who might have to defend legislation from opposing testimony.
Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said the plan likely falls short, and that senators need to do more work on it.
“For me, this is a good start,” she said. She motioned to send the bill to the Senate’s amending order for changes.
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, praised Palmer’s work, but echoed Keough’s point.
“I think this is just one step in the process,” Winder said.
The move comes just days after the Senate declined to take up House Bill 311, a sweeping tax package that would have provided $65 million in new cash for roads through a gas tax hike. That plan also cut income taxes and ended Idaho’s tax on groceries.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, co-sponsored that plan.
The Senate panel voted 7 to 2 to send Palmer’s bill to the amending order. Only Republican Sens. Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens and Lori Den Hartog of Meridian voted against Keough’s motion.
Following the vote, Palmer declined to discuss possible amendments with IdahoReporter.com.
Asked if the Senate and House could eventually come to some agreement on road funding, the only policy priority delaying the end of the 2015 legislative session, Palmer deflected.
“They’ve showed us what they want to do but shutting down our leadership,” Palmer said. “I support our leadership.”
Bedke and Moyle told Idaho Reports’ Melissa Davlin earlier this week the House won’t pass anything if the Senate doesn’t agree to something for economic development, likely some form of tax cuts.
Senate Transportation Committee member Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, told IdahoReporter.com he believes his colleagues want between $135 million and $150 million in new money for roads.
The Senate and House are off until Monday.
Here’s a look at the possible details of Senate amendments: