Capitol & State

Idaho AGC's Hammon says prospects good for boosting road funding in 2015 (w/ video)

Wayne Hammon says he's learned lessons from the defeat of Gov. Butch Otter's road funding bills in 2008 and 2009 and predicts success in the 2015 Legislature.

Hammon co-wrote bills and helped lead the effort as Otter's budget chief. Now, he's executive director of the Idaho Associated General Contractors, a key group favoring more road spending.

He spoke Tuesday, after the release of a University of Idaho survey showing just 27 percent of likely voters believe Idaho roads and bridges will be completely or somewhat adequate 10 years from now.

Hammon said that result suggests phasing in revenue increases over several years may help convince lawmakers to act when a newly-elected Legislature convenes in January.

"The legislators need to own this, they need to have skin in the game," Hammon said during  a videotaped interview available on the Statesman YouTube page. "They're the ones that have to stand up at the Kiwanis Club in Salmon and answer to voters."

Hammon faulted himself for missteps in 2008 and 2009, saying, "I wrote the bills and that was a mistake. The governor had a take-it-or-leave-it approach and that was a mistake and I'm responsible for that."

The full report is available online, including 28 pages of comments from among over 1,000 people surveyed between February and April.

Hammon said AGC believes the $262 million annual goal for new funding identified by an Otter task force in 2010 remains valid. He suggested fuel taxes may play a less significant part than in the failed 2008 and 2009 bills.

Participants in the survey said their top choice for raising road money is diverting sales taxes on auto parts and tires, which would cut revenue available for other programs. Seventy-three percent said they strongly or somewhat support that change.

Next most popular was increasing registration fees for commercial vehicles, at 68 percent somewhat or strongly in support.

Fifty-six percent supported increasing registration fees on passenger cars and light trucks; 54 percent backed a one-time fee on purchase of new or used vehicles; 35 percent supported higher fuel taxes; 32 percent backed charging sales tax on fuel; 27 percent favored toll roads; 23 percent supported a fee based on annual distance traveled; and 19 percent strongly or somewhat supported increasing property taxes.

Hammon was among seven members of an advisory committee that suggested questions to the McClure Center for Public Policy. The policy center paid for the $50,000 poll but consulted with Hammon, Otter staffer Mark Warbis, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, the Idaho Association of Highway Districts, Idaho Association of Counties, U of I lobbyist and former Sen. Joe Stegner; and Dave Butzier of URS, which manages Idaho's GARVEE transportation bonding program.