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Ex-Cda Mayor Added To Transportation Panel Batt Says Larger Board Will Provide More Thorough Evaluation Of Idaho’s Highway Needs

Former Coeur d’Alene Mayor John McHugh was one of four people appointed Tuesday by Gov. Phil Batt to the expanded state Transportation Board.

Chuck Winder, one of Batt’s three opponents in last year’s Republican gubernatorial primary, was named chairman of the board.

Batt, who said a larger board would provide a more thorough evaluation of Idaho’s highway needs, named Blackfoot Democrat Neil Miller and Meridian Republican Monte McClure to the other new positions on the board.

On July 1, they will join Democrats Mike Mitchell of Lewiston and John Combo of Idaho Falls and Republican Leon Smith of Twin Falls.

McHugh, a Republican, is an accountant and president of Magnuson, McHugh and Co.

He was mayor of Coeur d’Alene from 1970-74, and is a past president of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce.

“John McHugh has been heavily involved in economic development activities and understands the importance of solid infrastructure to Idaho’s economy,” Batt said in making the appointment.

Just before Tuesday’s announcement, Batt repeated his intentions to seek increased highway user fees next winter so the Transportation Department can begin cutting into a growing backlog of deteriorating roads.

“We don’t have enough funds to go around,” the governor said.

“I’m going to recommend that we augment those funds somewhat next time.”

But Batt remained silent on exactly what kind of package he intends to put before lawmakers when they convene the 1996 election-year session.

Transportation officials have indicated they need at least $10 million more a year just to begin restoring pavement so that the percentage rated as deficient can be dropped under 20 percent in nine years. The last time it was under 20 percent was 1986.

To generate that kind of new cash under the current formula that diverts 41 percent of the receipts to local governments and the state police, the fuel tax, now at 21 cents a gallon, would have to be increased by 2.5 cents or the registration fees, now at $44 a year, would have to jump $17. There could be a combination of the two.

An attempt to boost the fuel tax last winter by three cents a gallon - splitting the proceeds evenly between the state and local governments - fell through when county officials refused to give up their claim to $10 million in a transportation reserve fund.

They lost that money to state projects anyway.

, DataTimes

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