Idaho Legislators Weigh Gas Tax Increase

Calling it an "ideal time" to increase the 25-cent gas tax due to the lowest gas prices in five years, Rep. Linder Bateman (R-Idaho Falls) said legislators will have to "bite the bullet" to address aging road and bridge infrastructure.
January 8, 2015, 5am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"The issue is aging infrastructure with insufficient resources to maintain it let alone to improve it," said Bruce King from the Idaho Transportation Department.

Making the case for a gas tax increase, though not indicating by how much, Bateman said, "I think the need is there, and I think that even among some of my more conservative colleagues, we're seeing the need for some kind of increase in highway funding."

"We have a 25-cent gas tax that will not buy nearly what it did in 1996 (when it was set)," said Bateman.

Local New 8 indicates that "this is going to be a big issue during the upcoming legislative session," though it was barely mentioned in a Capital Press article listing the top agenda items for the 2015 Idaho legislative session.

"Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter proposed raising the gas tax a few years ago, and got a lot of heat," reports News 8.

Otter's predecessor, Gov. Phil Batt, for whom the Idaho Transportation Department’s headquarters was renamed in June, 2013, urged legislators to boost the gas tax at that time, reported The Spokesman-Review, and he got some, but evidently not enough support.

“...Idahoans in early days were willing to tax themselves to pay the (roads) bill,” Batt told the crowd gathered for the building renaming ceremony. “Now, adopting the model of the federal government, we’d rather do nothing or borrow enough money to get by.”

I think he’s absolutely correct,” said Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise. House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said, “This generation cannot duck our responsibility to maintain the investment that previous generations have put into our roads, so when the time’s right, I’m optimistic that we’ll step up.”

Notwithstanding the support of the present and former governors and some legislators, the gas tax wasn't taken up—perhaps because 2014 was an election year, noted Batt. With no election this year, and as of Jan. 4, gas prices averaging $2.03 statewide per gallon statewide with many stations selling for less than $2, and predicted to drop further, will the legislature do what Bateman suggests—"bite the bullet?" Stay tuned....

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update

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Published on Monday, January 5, 2015 in Local News 8 (ABC)
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