It was past 1 a.m. on April 11, but Idaho lawmakers successfully passed a transportation funding bill, HB 312aa, in a 51-19 vote in the House.
The bill was hammered out by a conference committee including members of the House and Senate, who wrangled increasing vehicle registration fees and fees for hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as an increase in the state's gasoline tax. The bill will raise almost $95 million for transportation, including
$63.2 million from a 7-cent increase in the Gem State's 25-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and $26.8 million from increased registration fees.
The bill's passage was last-minute: The Senate voted 26-9 in favor of the measure at just before midnight, and the House took it up shortly after midnight, with both chambers adjourning sine die at after 1:30 a.m., ending the 2015 legislative session.
Several lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with the bill. According to Boise Democratic Rep. John Gannon, the bill should have raised fees on extra-heavy trucks, while Rexburg Republican Rep. Dell Raybould countered that heavy truck drivers pay more in gas taxes. In a Spokesman-Review
report, others said that the bill simply didn't adequately address transportation issues in Idaho.
"This is about a third of the urgent need that's been identified to us," Boise Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel.
Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness told lawmakers in February that the state needs $262 million "just to preserve the system in the condition it's in." Ultimately, Ness said, "transportation in Idaho is underfunded by $543 million annually."