Top legislative leaders Bruce Newcomb and Bob Geddes were asked today about former Gov. Phil Batt coming out against the “Connecting Idaho” project building major highway improvements by borrowing against future federal highway funds through GARVEE bonds. Batt wrote a guest opinion that appeared in the Idaho Statesman today panning the idea, and backing a pay-as-you-go approach.
“I think it makes a difference,” Newcomb said of Batt’s statements. But he told the Idaho Press Club that this week also saw “an important paradigm shift,” when the chairs of the House and Senate transportation committees came out in favor of using GARVEE bonds – something both opposed last year – and called for simply scaling back the “Connecting Idaho” program to fewer projects.
Geddes said senators have been talking with the governor about splitting the program into several bills. “I don’t think he’s OK with it at all,” Geddes said. “A lot of the Legislature feels like part of the agreement last year was to give the legislators an annual look at GARVEE. … If we see problems, we want to have the flexibility of being able to step back a little bit. We’re still working on that issue.”
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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