Funding for highways and bridges in Idaho would get a shot in the arm under a plan unveiled by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. It includes higher fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, as well as a review of the state’s truck registration fees.
With funding for the Idaho Transportation Department slumping, the governor wants to phase in tax and fee increases to boost revenue by $174 million annually after five years. The money would be used to keep up with needed repairs and new projects throughout the state.
“No other issue has dominated public discourse or my own efforts more over the past year than how to address the enormous and growing backlog of maintenance and construction needs on our system of highways and bridges,” Otter said during his State of the State speech.
The governor’s plan includes an increase in the state’s 25-cent-per-gallon tax on gas and diesel. He is asking for the amount to be raised by 2 cents annually during the next five years.
Otter said that the revenue from boosting the fuel tax to 35 cents per gallon would generate $88 million annually.
The initiative also would make sure more money from the fuel tax is routed for transportation. The governor wants to shift the 5 percent of fuel tax revenue now earmarked for the Idaho State Police to roads and bridges. It would free up another $16 million.
He also wants a task force to look at the state’s truck registration fee system, to see if all classes of trucks are paying their fair share. In the meantime, Otter is looking to increase the fees by 5 percent in the first year, which is expected to raise $2.5 million a year.
All vehicles would be covered in the registration fee increases while continuing to take into account the age of the vehicle. The extra revenue would amount to another $63 million a year.
With an eye on winning over critics of the plan, the governor also is calling for the ITD to trim its administrative costs by 10 percent, as well as participate in an efficiency review program.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Idaho in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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