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Eye On Boise

Senate debate: ‘Interest rates are low now,’ ‘What about those injured, killed,’ ‘Ongoing debt for all Idahoans’

Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, speaks in favor of SB 1206 in the Senate on Tuesday (Betsy Z. Russell)
Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, speaks in favor of SB 1206 in the Senate on Tuesday (Betsy Z. Russell)

More from the Senate debate on SB 1206, the transportation funding bill:

Sen. Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs, said, “This bill has been a concern for me, it’s given me quite a bit of heartburn, especially the $300 million. As I’ve weighed this bill in my mind the last few days, weighed the good against the bad, I’m going to support the bill. I drive a road that was funded by GARVEE bonds on my way to Boise, on my way to Pocatello. And there’s been an issue that’s come up several times in the debate regarding safety. I remember when this particular road that I drive was not safe. … It’s a lot safer now. .., There’s quite a bit of truck traffic on this road. So I get the safety issue. … Interest rates are low now, and if we’re going to borrow the money, it’s probably as good a time as any.”

Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, said, “I received not just robo-letters, I received heart-written letters.” She said the traffic problems in her area have far-reaching impacts. “I saw this yesterday, when I was caught in that five-car wreck,” she said. “This legislation will support projects throughout our state, not just for Canyon County for our interstate. So I support this bill even though there are parts of it that I don’t like. … We are at a crucial point. We’ve been here for at least over 10 years where we’ve been just nibbling and pecking at the edges, knowing that we had to do things, but then having people complain about raising registration fees, raising gas taxes. People don’t like to pay those costs at the pump. I think about how much gas is wasted on that freeway, just idling, moving along. How much it’s costing, moving our farm products as those semis wait. I stand here today on behalf of 880 crashes that have occurred between Ada County and our state line, 90 persons seriously injured, and especially the eight fatalities there. … On the 9 mile stretch from where the freeway is three lanes to Caldwell, there have been 53 serious injuries and three deaths. … What about those that have been injured and killed on your roads because we haven’t had the courage to stand up and say we have got to do something? Some of us don’t like this, but we are at a crucial point for our state.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “I have a lot of sympathy for Canyon County and all the poor roads that we have across this state. But we have to talk about the debt, ongoing debt, for all Idahoans. … There’s no guarantee that the federal highway dollars will continue to fund the way we expect.” She also pointed to the 1 percent of sales taxes being shifted away from the general fund. “That competes against the budgets we’ve already set for this year, and against education,” she said. “The congestion mitigation fund does not benefit rural districts. ... It’s going to be where your population bases are, Treasure Valley, Magic Valley, perhaps Coeur d’Alene, but it isn’t going to benefit all Idahoans who are paying into this.” She said the only money the bill targets toward maintenance is the surplus eliminator, and noted that that’s the only part of the bill that’s just for two years. “We weren’t all asked about this bill. It came to us,” Stennett said. “I think we can do better.”

Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, said, “This is not charity for Canyon County. … All of that economic growth goes to benefit our general fund. This is an investment that will pay back dividends for our state. It will help decrease some of the tension on the cost for education. And if you live in Idaho, you benefit from a transportation infrastructure whether or not you drive that particular road. If you buy grocseries, if you get goods, if you get things in the mail, you benefit from that transportation system. So we have to look at things other than just user fees to fund the proper role of government, which … includes infrastructure in this state.” 

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, “The word debt has been thrown around a lot. GARVEE bonding is not debt of the state of Idaho. … The only obligation the state has is, if they receive federal funds, to pay that money to reduce the debt. Even the 7 percent that we pay for matching is not an obligation, it’s not debt. That’s one of the great things about GARVEE. There’s very little risk to the state.”

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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