Although the governor’s chief of staff, Brian Whitlock, says “people are talking” and “we remain optimistic,” the 85th day of this year’s legislative session has ended without any deal to break the gridlock that’s keeping lawmakers here long beyond their expected adjournment. The governor has offered another compromise, this time to cap the amount of Idaho’s federal highway money that can be spent to pay off bonds at 20 percent for the first four years and 30 percent in the fifth year, and leave any caps after that up to future lawmakers. House members want caps on the governor’s highway bonding program; the original legislation didn’t include any.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis said the four key bills implementing and funding a multimillion-dollar water settlement and water projects across the state will remain stuck on the Senate’s calendar, without a vote, until the House and the governor resolve the highway issue. Since the governor threatened last week to veto all House bills until there’s progress on the highway issue, the Senate’s held the House-passed water bills to protect them from any possible veto – to which the governor said, “That’s probably a good idea.”