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Eye On Boise

Conference committee chews over whether locals should share in surplus eliminator money…

The conference committee has gone at ease for 5 minutes at the suggestion of Chairman Bert Brackett, so each house’s delegation “can talk this over.” That came after Sen. Dean Cameron suggested Reps. John Vander Woude and Joe Palmer would be able to sell an appropriate deal to their caucus if the panel reaches one.  “I feel like if I’m going to give on use of general funds, if I’m going to give in that direction,” he needs some assurances, he said. “In order to even get there, I have to believe that the ability of the Legislature is not going to be harmed in providing the necessary services and education to our children. And I believe this approach is fairly creative, and certainly does get there. So my sticking points are what you seem to be unwilling to give on, is the location of where that money is distributed. Again I go back to, I’ve got local folks that are paying taxes just like everybody else. Why shouldn’t the local entities be able to be blessed by any windfall that may show up?”

Brackett said he thinks the new, separate fund he proposed is a better option than the state highway distribution account; Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, agreed.

Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, said he has lots of rural communities in his district, and rather than diluting the funds so as to make them insignificant, he said including local highway districts could make a big difference in those small communities, where even a $5,000 or $10,000 boost could make the difference between a repair getting done or not. “I think even some smaller amounts could be put to good use,” he said.

During the course of the discussion, Cameron made reference to the gas tax bills that already have passed the House and Senate, though they haven’t become law. “You guys set the floor, it’s 7 cents,” Cameron said, which was the gas tax increase included in House-passed HB 311. “The Senate I think set the ceiling, it’s 10 cents. ... But my support of this type of approach is going to be contingent on what we’re able to do in revenue and where the money’s going to go.”

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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