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Eye On Boise

Agreement reached on a few pieces of transportation bill, but not yet on gas tax…

The conference committee has reached tentative agreement on a few of pieces of the Senate amendments that the House disputed: Lowering registration fee increases for older classes of vehicles, keeping a flat $25 increase on commercial trucks, and approving slightly lower fees on hybrid and electric vehicles. But it hasn’t reached any agreement on gas tax.

Rather than a flat $25 registration fee increase on all classes of vehicles, Sen. Bert Brackett suggested the flat increase on the newer classes, and commensurate 53 percent increases on the older ones. Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, said, “I think those are more reasonable numbers, but until we get all the way through, I’d like to see.” Brackett said, “We’ll put it as a tentative.”

Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said, “I believe that this needs to be broken out a little bit futher.” When it comes to commercial trucks, he said, “The percentage increase drops dramatically. ... I think there’s a more fair way to do this section, so you have appropriate increases at different levels, from a matter of fairness.“

Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, said, “The basic reason behind that was, we had looked over and over” at truck registration-fee issues. “I think in the very foreseeable future, we’re going to be going down another road on truck registrations anyway. … If you start going down that road, we have several different categories of trucks – trucks that stay in Idaho, trucks that are farm tracks. … Unless we’re going to go down the road of a ton-mile tax of some sort. And I think for this committee at this point in time to try and take that up is not going to turn out well in the end.”

Brackett noted that the Senate amendments include a statement of legislative intent, “a commitment to go to weight-distance within five years. ... So representative, that doesn’t immediately address your concern, but the commitment is there that we will within five years.”

Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, said, “Having worked on some of that where we did percentages.. the work that it takes to redo these charts … is quite complicated. … I would prefer that we stay with just the flat increase for now, with the understanding that we will be moving a different direction.”

Sens. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, and Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said they were “comfortable” with that.

On the fees for electric and hybrid vehicles, which the Senate amendments slightly lowered, Palmer said, “I don’t have a huge concern, we’re talking small numbers at this point. If the reason that it was lowered was because we didn’t feel like we were giving a benefit to people for trying to do better, that was already calculated in there. If it was a straight trade for the gas tax that they would pay, it would be about double.” Erpelding said that doesn’t take into account the value of decreased emissions from those vehicles. “I don’t think it’s addressing the whole issue,” he said. “So I appreciate the downgrade (in fees), in terms of what came out.”

Brackett said, “We’ll put an OK by it.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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