Idaho lawmakers opposed to using budget surplus for roads

| 8/24/2007

Two leading state lawmakers in Idaho are not in favor of directing the state’s unexpected $247 million budget surplus to transportation.

Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, who lead the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, would rather put the money toward “one-time” projects. The most likely uses would be for health care, natural resources and prisons, The Times-News in Twin Falls, ID, reported.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter shared the same sentiment earlier this summer. The GOP governor and others have expressed skepticism over a suggestion by State Controller Donna Jones, also a Republican, to put the money into roads and bridges.

The Idaho government wrapped up their 2007 fiscal year in June with a bigger-than-expected $247 million budget surplus. State officials had expected the figure to be about $140 million.
Officials with the Idaho Transportation Department say the extra cash would come in handy because the agency needs $200 million to keep up with needed road and bridge work. The agency operates on a $500 million annual budget.

Otter said he would prefer to increase fuel taxes and some transportation-related fees to make up for the expected shortfall, The Associated Press reported.
Cameron and Bell said they would rather see a new method of raising funds for road work be found. The most likely scenario is higher taxes for transportation, they told The Times-News.
How the state will come up with more money for road and bridge work could be a major point of emphasis during the 2008 regular session.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Idaho in 2007, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor