The "going home" bill of the 2015 edition of the Idaho Legislature—a $127 million transportation funding measure—made its way out of what is presumably one of the last committee sessions of the year, when the Senate Transportation Committee sent House Bill 310
to the full Senate on Wednesday with a "do pass" recommendation.
The bill shifts nearly $16 million away from the General Fund—which is currently earmarked for Idaho State Police—toward road work, something Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has publicly said he would not support. However, Otter refused to come up with his own transportation funding plan, opting to leave the task to the Legislature.
"I will not entertain proposals that compete for General Fund tax dollars," Otter warned the Legislature in his State of the State Address on Jan. 12.
The House has already passed HB 310 by a 39-31 vote. Meridian Republican Rep. Jason Monks, the bill's sponsor, told the Senate Transportation Committee that the fuel tax was "a dying tax" and "it's not going to be enough." Instead, he said, the Legislature should look at the General Fund as a source for transportation funding.
The $127 million funding bill, however, falls far short of Idaho's needs. Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness told lawmakers
in February that "$262 million is needed just to preserve the system in the condition it's in." What's more, according to a 2010 legislative task force, "transportation in Idaho is underfunded by $543 million annually," Ness said.
Ultimately, there was no debate in the Senate Transportation Committee, and members voted 6-3 to forward it to the full Senate.