House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer has come out slugging from the lunch break. Sen. Bert Brackett said, “When we adjourned, the question was … whether the presenters of the draft … if they would be receptive to including the locals in the surplus eliminator fund that we’re talking about. And short of something else, it would go into the Highway Distribution Account, minus the state police, it’d be 60-40,” for the split between ITD and local highway districts.
“I’ll respond really simple,” Palmer said. “No.”
“Would you like to elaborate on that?” Brackett asked.
“I think the goal here once we come up with something is to get it out of our caucuses, get it on there and get it passed,” Palmer said. “If we do this, we’re not going to get it passed. If we change this funding mechanism, it’s not going to pass.” Sen. Dean Cameron asked, “Including the account by which the money would be received?” Palmer said, “Yes.”
Cameron said, “Can you help us understand the reasons why?” Palmer said, “That money could range from anywhere from nuthin’ $30 million, $40 million, up and down. … If we start splitting it up, it’s going to get watered down and it’s not going to do us any good. We’re going to give 40 percent of the rest of the money to the locals, and we are at this point in the session where we can get people to come along, we cannot go too far, and this is what I believe we can get off the floor. Any more than that, any change to this, we’re not going to get anywhere.”
Brackett offered “an alternative approach I would ask you to consider, and that is create a new fund.” It would be similar to the strategic initiative account at ITD that the House GOP wanted to receive the money, but it would be separate, it would receive the surplus-eliminator money, and it would go 40 percent to local highway districts and 60 percent to the state, “and it would be on a needs basis or application.”
Palmer suggested a straw poll on the idea; it came out 4-2, with Palmer and Vander Woude objecting. That’s not enough to pass, because a majority of each house’s delegation is needed. The discussion is now continuing.