Idaho lawmakers seek solutions to transportation funding shortfall

| 1/9/2008

Higher taxes aren’t typically something that voters rush to the ballot box to support. But one leading Idaho state lawmaker says that very well could be the case when it comes to funding transportation.

House Speaker Lawerence Denney, D-Midvale, said he sees support growing in the state to boost taxes for improved roads. With that in mind, several lawmakers are looking at drafting a bill that would allow voters to decide on a local sales tax to pay for road work and public transit.

Fresh off input from Gov. Butch Otter and more than 70 legislators, advocates for the local option tax are putting together legislation that could come up for consideration during the regular session that started Tuesday, Jan. 8. The bill is expected to allow voters to choose to raise the sales tax in their communities for roads and/or public transportation.

Funding for transportation is expected to draw a lot of discussion this year at the capitol because the state faces a shortfall of about $200 million. That amount is expected to increase by $45 million annually, the Idaho Statesman reported.

Among the options likely to draw consideration to reduce the state’s funding gap include increasing user fees such as vehicle registration fees.

Advocates for the local option tax, however, point out that revenue from higher vehicle registration fees would be used for the state highway system. Cities and counties with their own funding shortfalls would be shut out.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Idaho, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor