Idaho board recommends adding sales tax on fuel

| 11/22/2006

Fueling in Idaho could get a bit more expensive.

The Idaho Transportation Board has recommended the state keep its 25-cent-per-gallon fuel tax intact, and add a sales tax to fuel purchases. They also recommended boosting fees for trucking permits.

The board said the additional money from the 6 percent sales tax is needed because the state faces a $200 million shortfall in its annual highway construction budget. If approved, Idaho would become the tenth state to collect the tax on fuel purchases.

In a press release, Frank Bruneel, chairman of the Transportation Board, said "we're not just crying wolf here" about a funding crisis. Higher construction and maintenance costs, stagnant revenues and Idaho's booming population were cited as the roots of a problem that can't be ignored.

Officials said levying a sales tax on fuel could generate $108 million per year. The board also recommended that lawmakers pass bills to raise an additional $95 million, The Associated Press reported.

Possible revenue enhancers include increasing fees for trucking permits and vehicle registrations by 75 percent. Eliminating a tax exemption for ethanol also was mentioned.

The new money would be used to help pay for roads, the Idaho State Police, railroad crossings, bridge inspections and the state Department of Parks and Recreation, The AP reported.

The board's recommendations will be forwarded to the Idaho Legislature and Gov.-elect Butch Otter during the legislative session that begins Jan. 8.