Otter brakes on cash for Idaho highways

But an industry alliance will push for it anyway.

LEWISTON TRIBUNEJanuary 15, 2014 

Gov. Butch Otter seemed to slam the door on additional transportation funding in this year’s legislative session, but that doesn’t mean lawmakers and other supporters won’t try to find an opening.

Otter, who has twice been burned when lawmakers shot down his highway funding efforts, has said he won’t move forward on the issue until he hears from the public. Nevertheless, there seems to be some support this session for at least a modest boost in highway maintenance funding.

“No new taxes — but within that framework, there could be some limited options and shifts,” says Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson.

Any discussion of raising significant amounts of new revenue through increasing the fuel tax or vehicle registration fees will likely be postponed until next year, Rogerson says. There could be some limited revenue proposals, however, such as shifting transportation-related sales-tax dollars from the general fund to the highway distribution account.

Industry groups want more funding. Several came together last summer to form the Idaho Transportation Coalition.

Wayne Hammon, executive director of the Idaho Associated General Contractors, told legislators Jan. 9 that more than a third of the bridges on the state highway system are at least 50 years old. One national study indicates 359 bridges across the state need to be replaced. At current funding levels, Hammon says, that will take 120 years.

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