The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has set the budget for the Idaho Transportation Department, the last remaining state agency budget to be set – but has delayed a decision on GARVEE bonding. Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said the joint committee hopes to get to that on Wednesday.
Gov. Butch Otter has proposed another $264 million round of bonding for major highway improvements, following up on this year’s first $200 million in bonds. The bonding is for major highway improvements around the state, including upgrades to Highway 95 in North Idaho and expansion of freeways in the Treasure Valley. GARVEE bonds allow the state to borrow against its future federal highway allocations, thus getting more work done more quickly and getting ahead of the current extreme inflation in materials costs.
The budget set for ITD this morning, proposed by Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, totals $496 million, which is very slightly below Gov. Otter’s recommendation and represents a 1.3 percent decrease from this year’s budget. The transportation budget includes no general tax funds, relying instead on federal money and dedicated funds from fuel tax and vehicle registration fees. Henderson’s proposal shifted $3.5 million from replacement items to construction and right-of-way acquisition, reducing replacement items from $22.2 million to $18.6 million. “My motion takes away maybe some critical things in replacement,” Henderson said. But, he said, “It’s so critical that we build as many roads as we can.” The budget proposal won unanimous support from the joint committee on a 20-0 vote.