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Tuesday, February 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Idaho gas tax referendum misses signature gathering deadline

BOISE – A North Idaho retiree’s push to force voter consideration of a 7-cent gas tax increase approved by the Legislature has fallen far short.

Alan Littlejohn of Athol needed to gather 47,432 signatures by Tuesday to trigger a voter referendum; he turned in just 32.

“I believe that any time you want to tax somebody, the taxpayers should have the voice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ ” Littlejohn said. “That’s just me.”

But in his first attempt at getting a rare voter referendum on Idaho’s ballot, he wasn’t prepared for the big job or the short time frame. Referendums must be filed, with all the necessary signatures, within 60 days after the final adjournment of the legislative session in which the law passed.

Referendums are rare in Idaho but were successfully used to overturn the controversial “Students Come First” school reform laws in 2010.

The state requires signatures from 6 percent of qualified voters as well as 6 percent of voters in at least 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts.

Littlejohn has dropped the effort, for now. But he said he plans to keep working on political and tax-related issues. Littlejohn is a retired fire district captain from California who settled on a ranch north of Athol a decade ago.

“Hopefully we can get something accomplished in the Idaho state Legislature,” he said, “because this session didn’t go very well, in my mind.”

The transportation bill, which had been in the works since at least 2008, raises $95 million a year toward Idaho’s $262 million annual backlog in road and bridge maintenance. The measure also includes a “surplus eliminator” that is expected to raise close to another $50 million for road and bridge maintenance next year through a share of state surplus funds.

Idaho’s gas tax, now 25 cents per gallon, hasn’t been raised since 1996.

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