Jerry Whitehead, the new chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board, was questioned by members of the Senate Transportation Committee this afternoon at his confirmation hearing about how he'd approach the issue of equity in taxes and fees charged to truckers in Idaho; Whitehead has been president and owner of Western Trailers since 1979, and is a past chairman of the Idaho Trucking Association and Idaho Truck PAC Inc. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, asked him if he's likely to "bring the negotiating folks back to the table ... (to work on) making sure our system is fair and balanced and that each truck pays its fair share of the cost of the highway system."
Whitehead responded, "I really think it needs to be brought back together and looked at. If I could play a role in that, I certainly would. ... I would certainly look after the interests of the industry, and also I have to look after the interests of the Transportation Department. It's no secret that we're underfunded."
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian - himself a former ITD board chair - said, "I think that is something that does need to be looked at, and I think equity needs to be looked at. I agree with Sen. Keough on that." He asked Whitehead if he'd be willing to look into issues including a weight-distance or ton-mile tax and report back to lawmakers. "With one condition - that we find a new name for it," Whitehead responded. "Ton-mile tax has been a thorny issue since I can remember. If we could name it something else ... it could probably go down a lot easier for everyone." Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, said, "As long as we're taking name nominations, let's just call it the 'fair tax.'"
Several state studies have found that under Idaho's current fee system, truckers underpay for their impact on Idaho's roads, and car drivers overpay.