Almost all the members of a state task force looking at Idaho transportation say that roads need more money, and that not finding more funding will make the state less economically competitive. Those findings come from a survey of Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force on Modernizing Transportation Funding in Idaho. The survey was released at a meeting Thursday.
“There’s pretty good consensus that we need additional revenue,” said Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who leads the task force. He said there was another point of agreement among the panel of lawmakers, state officials, and private sector transportation experts. “There was good general consensus that federal funding was probably not going to be our salvation,” he said.
“I’m a little bit surprised that by and large there’s a lot of agreement,” said Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, who sits on the task force and leads the Senate Transportation Committee.
Little responded to McGee that plenty is still up for debate. “There’s agreement on where we’d like to end up,” he said. “There’s not agreement on the hurdles we have to go through to get there.”
The survey also found that task force members think the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and local highway districts will need to find an additional $59 million for transportation improvements and preservation on top of the $211 million that is currently spent.
The task force is set to issue recommendations for roads funding in December, but it’s unclear where the money will come from. “We’re reluctant to do anything that puts further stress on the businesses of our state,” said Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, the House Transportation and Defense Committee Chairman. Otter created the task force after his proposed tax and fee increases for road funding died in the Legislature last year.
“I would think it wouldn’t hurt to begin to explore potential funding sources,” said Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise. “The limiting factor is going to be the funding not the needs.” The task force will next meet in April.
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