The Joint-Finance Appropriations Committee is hearing from germane committee chairs from both houses today, as it prepares to begin setting budgets for state agencies; a public hearing is scheduled for Friday morning. Among the highlights so far: House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, was asked whether what eventually comes out to address boost transportation funding is likely to be a package deal, or individual pieces. He said he initially thought a package was the way to go, but is changing his mind. “There’s lots of pieces of legislation out there that I think everyone can vote for,” Palmer told JFAC. “I think we are going to start piece-mealing those out.”
Senate Transportation Chairman Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, said the past two years have been spent building support for improving Idaho’s transportation system, and that support is reflected in the University of Idaho McClure Center poll that found 71 percent of Idaho voters say roads and bridges are very important to the state’s economy. “Now the challenge is to transform that support into a viable proposal and generate enough votes to get it passed,” Brackett said. “This has been a grass-roots effort. … The general public will have to recognize the need.”
JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said, “As I recall the poll, those people said the need was there but they don’t want to pay for it, necessarily.” She asked Brackett if there will be efforts to reach out and educate folks about the need. “Yes, there will be,” Brackett said. “This is a tough issue. We’ve emphasized to the counties, the Chamber Alliance, the cities, how large their stake is. … They’re on the ground, they deal with constituents daily, and they need to get that message out, the importance of it to their constituents. … They need to cover our backs when we do go home.”
Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, told Brackett and Palmer, "I think you've heard support from this committee for standing up and doing the tough work that you have."