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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Reviewing Idaho’s transportation funding needs…

The numbers haven’t changed on Idaho’s unmet transportation needs, the House and Senate transportation committees hearing at a joint meeting this afternoon, with presentations from Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness and ITD Board Chairman Jerry Whitehead. Ness said the state is $543 million a year short in its transportation funding, and needs to spend $262 million a year more just to preserve its system in the condition that it’s in today. Meanwhile, Idaho’s 25 cent per gallon gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1996. “It has not kept pace with the economy, and adjusted for inflation, it only has the buying power of 17 cents,” Ness told lawmakers.

He also detailed numerous reforms ITD has undertaken in recent years to become more efficient and cut costs. Whitehead said, “You’ve seen the numbers - $543 million is what we really need, $262 million is what will keep us where we’re at today.” He said Idaho needs to invest in its infrastructure to keep it sustainable over the long term. “If we’re going to reduce our dependency on the federal government, our transportation funding shortfall needs to be addressed,” he said. “It’ll be an investment in Idaho’s future. It’ll provide jobs and improve the transportation system that will improve Idaho’s economy.”

One of the lawmakers, Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, recalled the years when the Legislature rebuffed Gov. Butch Otter’s earlier proposals to raise the gas tax and otherwise increase funding for transportation. “2008, 2009, a few of us are still around from that time, and there wasn’t a lot of confidence in the department,” Nonini said. “Since then, the confidence has increased greatly. It makes it easier for us to have a conversation about revenue.”

Today’s presentation didn’t identify where new revenue for transportation should come from. That’s up to lawmakers.

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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