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State task force no closer to new transportation revenue plans

State task force no closer to new transportation revenue plans

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
December 3, 2009
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
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December 3, 2009

Idaho state transportation leaders say they will need more than $500 million extra each year to pay for maintenance and construction projects.  A state panel charged with finding new ways to pay for roads and transit is stalled after not agreeing on that dollar figure.

Idaho Transportation Department Chief Engineer Tom Cole said Wednesday the state would need at least an additional $211 million each year for basic road and bridge maintenance.  He said that money would “just keep the system where it is now”, and gradual improvements would add another $60 million to the ITD’s yearly bill.  Cole said additional road construction to reduce congestion and improve safety could tack on another $283 million.  Added up, that’s at least $573 million currently without funding.

The state task force has yet to settle on how much needs to be raised or where the money will come from.  “The big thing here is trying to fix our infrastructure while keeping the costs down for citizens” said Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell.

Idaho Governor Butch Otter set up the task force after lawmakers rejected his proposals for tax and fee increases to fund highway infrastructure needs in the 2009 session.  The group of elected officials, transportation leaders, and citizens has until next December to find funding that is politically palatable and fiscally stable.  That’s just under a year away, but some on the panel say that deadline isn’t too far off.

“We really don’t have that much time,” said State Senator Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint.  “A year from now we’re supposed to have our work completed.  And in between then, we have another legislative session and an election cycle.”

The transportation funding task force won’t meet again until February, and a plan for paying for looming roadwork likely won’t come until 2011.   “I do not think you will see major change this session,” said McGee.

Otter and several lawmakers have said they won’t raise taxes next year.  Otter has said all options are on the table for paying for roadwork.

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