Back at the table, the House-Senate conference committee on transportation funding picked up where it left off at its last break – talking about possible indexing of the gas tax in the future. House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, said, “As good as it sounds,” he thought indexing would create problems for distributors and others. “I don’t think we can go there with that,” he said.
Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, said, “I’ll take that as a no. That leads us to the level of the tax.”
Palmer said while he prefers 5 cents, he’d suggest four cents next year, plus another 2 cents the following year, for a total of 6 cents. “I would make a valid attempt to get my floor to move that on,” he said.
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said the state will need to look at indexing eventually. “The sooner you address it, the better,” he said. He said as far as revenue to be raised for roads, “Our desire is to hit in that $125 million to $150 million range.” He suggested: A 4-cent increase next year; 2 cents more two years from now; another 2 cents four years from now; and another 2 cents six years from now. “That would create the package that generates the same level of dollars,” Cameron said. He added to Palmer, “I know that your body is willing to pass 7 cents because they already did, they already made that vote.”
Brackett said, “We’ve got the surplus eliminator, we’ve got the general fund money for the roads too, so that’s a trade-off.”
Palmer said, “The reason they voted for that 7 cents tax was because it was a major tax cut, in the grocery tax. … Seven cents would not sell today, because … now we’re talking about adding taxes. There’s no tax cuts on the table.” Cameron countered, "I understand that you have introduced a tax reduction package today, with the grocery tax credit." He also pointed to other, smaller tax cuts lawmakers already have approved. "We did it in piecemeal, rather than an overall policy."