Eye On Boise

Fund shift for roads clears Senate

The Idaho Senate debates HB 376 on Friday, to shift funding for the Idaho State Police and state parks off the highway fund a year from now to free up $21 million for road maintenance. If no new funding sources are identified for then for those departments, their funding would have to come from the state's general fund. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
The Idaho Senate debates HB 376 on Friday, to shift funding for the Idaho State Police and state parks off the highway fund a year from now to free up $21 million for road maintenance. If no new funding sources are identified for then for those departments, their funding would have to come from the state's general fund. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Senators have reluctantly approved HB 376, to shift the ISP and state parks off the highway fund a year from now, as of July 1, 2010. Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, dubbed it "pretty much a shell game" and said it offers "an illusion of having a solution." Said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, "This isn't ideal, but it is far from an illusion." He said, "This will force us to look at that situation, knowing that at a minimum, the state general fund will have to fill that hole next year for both state police and parks and rec." Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, said he's been getting emails from constituents, "saying please do not take funds from parks and rec," and he wanted assurance that the bill doesn't do that. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, the bill's Senate sponsor, said it doesn't. Parks won't be affected in the coming year, she said, and for the next year, "The Legislature is charged and has clearly expressed an intent that we will find replacement money."

Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell, said, "It's kind of like the song, you don't always get what you want, and this is a good example of that." McGee said he favored more funding for road maintenance, but short of that, "what HB 376 does, it allows us to take that first step, it is a piece of that first step of properly maintaining our roads and bridges here in Idaho." Keough said the bill isn't her ideal transportation funding measure, either. State transportation officials have cut back on snow plowing in North Idaho due to the maintenance funding crunch, she said - something she sees directly as a regular commuter from Sandpoint to Coeur d'Alene. "I drive ... in six inches of slush, because ITD doesn't have maintenance money to plow on a regular basis," she told the Senate. "This isn't about me, it's about the traveling public taking their life in their hands to get to work, to get to school." Said Keough, "I don't like what we're doing here ... but this is what we have here today." It includes "our promise that we will backfill, some way, somehow, those pots of money," she said. It passed, 24-7.




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